The long-awaited curriculum, An Introduction to Music For The Blind Student, Part I, by Richard Taesch, has at last become a reality and is enjoying world-wide acceptance. The Curriculum is published by Dancing Dots Technology which also holds selling agent rights for Taesch's other works such as the series, Introduction To The Piano for The Blind Student. Part II of the curriculum series is also now in the final testing stages, and soon to be released. Several other additions to the series are lined up, and will be released in the near future.
A special committee of tutorial assistants will be appointed to stand by for those who have questions or need special guidance through portions of the course. Although the series is intended for those who have no knowledge of braille or braille music, a gentle hand-to-hold is always comforting in unfamiliar territory and such is the purpose of the new committee. Those who are not on-line with Internet are also encouraged to write or call for help. Even in this day and age of near-smothering Internet activity, there are many who do not use it, and many of the MENVI membership are not on-line. The committee will be in place by the next Issue of MENVI, and an announcement will be made as to how to access the service. You may contact Dancing Dots Technology for ordering information at: 610.783.6692. Or write:
California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH) will hold its 43rd conference, "Planning the Route" at the San Diego Marriott - Mission Bay on March 15- 17, 2002. The CTEVH Music Committee will present a workshop titled: Braille Music and the College Educator The Transcriber's role in bridging the gap between blind students and music professors. The workshop description reads: "Gone are the days of tackling large music texts needed yesterday. Braille music skills are required by many colleges, thus placing music transcribers in unprecedented demand. Transcribers must also become educators through the presentation of their work, and inspire ongoing communication with teachers and students. Learn Do's, Don'ts, and high-efficiency time-saving tips. Accept the challenge you ARE their lifeline!" Although the description of the workshop is self-explanatory, the challenges facing today's professional music transcribers have only begun to present themselves. Music transcribers must now take a pro-active role as personal educator for each and every one of their clients. How the work is presented, how communication with the blind student's educators is conducted, and how we keep up with continuing education is directly related to a blind student's success or failure in college.
The second workshop will be supported by the MENVI Specialists Committee. Committee members are invited to share their professional expertise. The session is titled: Music In Education - Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired. The description reads: "Blind students and their families are invited to an open forum and discussions on subjects such as braille music, seeking private teachers for students, and the role of music education in the millennium. Meet the specialists and the transcribers who work behind the scene to give blind students a leading edge."
A special workshop on braille music literacy was presented at the 2001 California State University Northridge Conference on Disabilities. This conference is the largest of its kind in the world. Following is a transcription of the opening statements by workshop leader, Richard Taesch:
"When this 1994 article appeared in The California Music Teacher (Music Teachers Association of California) journal, no one could foresee the impending dramatic and rather aggressive demand for academic independence, equality, and career/employment opportunities that would soon overwhelm those of us in the field of music education and visual impairment. This demand would come from those we serve the blind young people who have refused to remain lost in the 75 (approx.) percent unemployment rate among the blind population.
These are the musical few who have learned of published research in music education and brain development those who now are not afraid to pursue a once often laughed at music diploma, and to brave with confidence the corporate business world or education and teaching professions. These are the blind young people who KNOW who they are, and that they are unique and special not in spite of the fact that they are blind but BECAUSE of it!
"Yes, perhaps a blind musician can succeed having only been a follower, and having learned to play and perform by imitating others. Perhaps a blind executive can allow assistants to read and interpret written correspondence without personal insight from communication that only the print or braille reader can detect insight and inflections otherwise lost through the voice of a screen-reader or human interpreter insight that could influence crucial business decisions. But without literacy, a blind music educator is extremely vulnerable, and open to every kind of indifference, ignorance, sighted prejudice, manipulation, and job discrimination known to man not to mention at the mercy of students who can and will take advantage of their situation in a classroom.
"Following is an excerpt from the article appearing in Winter/Spring 2001 newsletter - Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired (MENVI):
'... how do you impose yourself on those who think a blind teacher cannot teach an instrument?' Response: 'You can't imposeyourself, but you can give examples, and MOST OF ALL, let them know that your curriculum is in your hands IN BRAILLE! You have the ability to function with sighted or blind students as well as ANY sighted teacher can. I think your teaching resources and your materials MUST be in place first, and you must be able to prove it!
'Sadly, however, there are many accounts of blind people who were forced to quit the pursuit of their teaching careers due to ignorance and bias. Preconceptions pose the only real handicap to a young blind educator trying to get started, and a struggle is usually inevitable. However, a new age and hope does seem to be on the horizon. Increasing braille literacy among blind music majors is creating a more equal playing field. Musically educated individuals, blind and sighted, are finding music diplomas to be increasingly welcome in non-performing and even certain business-related careers.'
"Musically trained and gifted blind people are indeed unique. They are capable of superior academic achievement, whether or not they will ever perform a musical composition, or even if their playing ability is poor. We have seen shining examples of success in opening neurological pathways to literary braille skills by teaching the music code and sight singing BEFORE the literary code. This was not done in defiance to established procedures, but with knowledge of unsuccessful attempts to teach certain blind children to read children who had been somewhat abandoned with respect to braille literacy children who also possessed (coincidentlally?) something in common, that which musicians know as perfect pitch. A simple correlation was established. Once abstraction skills were applied by the child through tactile perception of a braille music note, his or her sense of frequency recognition (perfect pitch) appeared to continue opening doors and removing barriers. Some of these children are now Grade 2 literary braille readers, and can read music up to tempo in some cases more fluently than our sighted enrollment.
"The list of schools who require braille music skills BEFORE entering college is growing. Unfortunately, these schools do not have the means nor the funds to establish preparatory training programs for blind music majors. Certified music transcribers are few in number (approx. 75 in the United States alone), and an influx of new professional transcribers is not likely in the foreseeable future. Actual career educators in braille music pedagogy are almost non-existent.
"It is, therefore, imperative that training systems, technology, and curriculum in braille music disciplines usable by students or educators must be encouraged and supported. Institutions and organizations such as National Resource Center for Blind Musicians, MENVI, and others must be highly encouraged and supported for their crusade in the music literacy arena, and for carrying a message of workable environments for college-bound blind individuals. These individuals are tomorrow's teachers and employable blind professionals.
"For this, funding is needed, along with the sincere belief that the arts in America must not forsake our most formidable and potential blind contributors, and must assist them in pursuit of their education. Literacy and independence is everyone's responsibility. It is no accident that the percentage of blind artists in the competitive field of music is proportionally high, and that those who succeed are often musically literate! The list of blind educators in the field of music is equally impressive none of which could function without the use of the braille music medium to communicate academically with sighted students.
"In conclusion, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out the very interesting fact that although the un-employment rate among blind individuals is staggering, nine-out- of-ten of those who have jobs, do read braille and are, therefore, literate!"
This is a list of Specialists belonging to the MENVI network. To E-mail them, click on the appropriate link. If you have questions, please and tell me who you are trying to contact and what address you are using. Please be specific as this will aid in responding quicker. If you call and get my voice mail, please leave your name, number, who you are trying to contact, and the problem you are having. You will get a call back within 24-48 hours in most cases.
This completes newsletter 13. Bettye Krolick has changed E-mail addresses, so contact Bettye through the home page or newsletter 15. Please choose from the following links from MENVI.
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