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Music Education Network For
The Visually Impaired

A Coalition of Parents, Educators, and Students


Southern California Conservatory of Music, MENVI Headquarters
8711 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352
Phone: (818) 767-6554; E-mail: taeschr@ix.netcom.com

Newsletter, Winter Quarter 1998 Issue No. 4

MENVI

MENVI Meeting Saturday, March 28, 1998

MENVI Membership Meeting

Our meeting is set for Saturday, March 28 1998 at 3:15 p.m. This will be the last day of the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH) Conference XXXIX in Los Angeles (March 26-28, 1998). The Conference will take place at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. Members of the CTEVH Music Committee will also be present at this important meeting.

New Services Available For Blind Musicians And Teachers

If you are on-line with the Internet, you can subscribe to a new free service called "Braillem." It is a list of subscribers interested in braille music and resources available. If you have things to share with the members, you can write to one e-mail address and your message will be sent to all of the other subscribers. Here's how to subscribe: send a message to majordomo@majordomo.net. Leave the subject blank, and add the message, "subscribe braillem." You can specify a certain address by adding the address following the "subscribe braillem." You will receive a confirmation to which you must reply to, then you will be automatically subscribed.

Dancing Dots Technology has developed the GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator. Bill McCann, President of the company, is a blind musician who has used braille music for about 30 years. GOODFEEL is the first successful braille music translation software on the market. If you would like further information, visit their web-site at: http://www.netaxs.com/~ddots. E-mail is: ddots@netaxs.com. Phone: 610-352-7607. Mr. McCann will be a panelist at Richard Taesch's workshop, "Teaching Music Braille: The Structuring of Early Curriculum for Blind Music Students" at the CTEVH Conference. This workshop is scheduled for Friday, March 27 at 10:15 a.m.

Los Olvidados has produced a braille music version of their well known "Tack-tiles" teaching aids. The large plastic braille tiles can provide a bridge between early exposure to braille music and literary braille where tactile sensitivity has been problematic. You may obtain more information about Tack-tiles from the above numbers for Dancing Dots.

Opus Technologies has completed the production version of the CD-ROM International Manual of Braille Music Notation. Sam Flores, President of the company, serves on the CTEVH Music Committee and was a panelist last year on the conference workshop on music education and braille music literacy. You may reach Opus Technologies at: (619) 538-9401.

Looking for a Noble Tax Break?

Southern California Conservatory of Music, Braille Music Division, serves nearly fifty blind students. Many of these students are in need of financial aid, and at present are primarily funded by faculty volunteerism. If you would like to sponsor a needy blind child or adult for one quarter or more of precious musical training and get a tax "write-off," contact SCCM at: (818) 767-6554. SCCM has donated and maintains several pianos for children in need. All materials and braille music transcribing is provided free-of-charge for all of SCCM's blind enrollment. No blind student in need is denied lessons and full training at the school. SCCM is a Non-profit California Corporation.

Programs and Classes

The Music and Arts Center For The Handicapped is now taking applications for its third Summer Music Institute for Blind College-bound Musicians at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. Applications must be submitted by May 1 for the 3-week program July 12-21, 1998. Courses will provide exposure to braille music, computer composition, keyboard, theory, and ensemble, as well as strategies for independent living and study in the college setting. The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians at MACH provides information to musicians, students, and teachers on music braille and accessible music technology. Call Mr. David Goldstein at: (203) 366-3300.

Los Angeles Pierce College is offering a class in MIDI computer composition and arranging for blind musicians in the 3rd week of February, 1998. Mr. David Pinto is the instructor for the class. For information, you may reach him at: (818) 792-3693.

Advisory Committee News

We are very pleased to announce to addition of our newest MENVI advisor, Stephanie Pieck. Miss Pieck is a blind music educator and is founder and primary instructor of piano at The Music Suite in New York. She is a dynamic and enterprising musician who has developed a very successful business. Her accomplishments at the Music Suite are a fine example of opportunities that blind musicians and students can consider in their future plans. Stephanie has contributed the following article to MENVI for publication. It is a wonderful essay on her journey from schooling to becoming a professional performer and teacher. Once you've read her own story, our decision to appoint her as Advisor in the area of private music education will speak for itself.



THE EDUCATION OF AN EDUCATOR
by Stephanie Pieck

When I graduated from high school and headed for college, I had no idea what I would be doing. All I was sure of was that it would be something with music. At that time, I was torn between four instruments: the voice, the organ, the cello, and the piano. I was so uncertain that I auditioned and was accepted as both a voice and a piano student at Ithaca College. I chose to study piano as my primary instrument, doing a lot of singing on the side in various choirs and on my own. I began as an education major, doing all the course work to become a public school music teacher. One of my first discoveries was that my braille music reading skills were abysmal. Bar-by-bar baffled me; slurs looked like ties; and it was anybody's guess how I would play chords when they weren't written out note by note. I also realized that someone would not be around at all times to separate piano music into parts for each hand, and record those parts slowly enough so that I could learn them accurately.

Finally, there was some music like Hindemith sonatas and song accompaniments by Ned Rorem and Debussy that couldn't be learned in this way. So I embarked on an independent crash course in sight-reading. Any music that I could get hold of, I read and played. I sang through most of that wonderful and terrifying book, "Elementary Musicianship" by Hindemith. And in the course of one semester, I advanced from struggling to read Bach's two-part inventions to playing Brahms intermezzos and Chopin ballades from braille scores. I had a tremendous revelation in the first semester of junior year when I took the classroom instruments course. When I had to teach a guitar lesson after only having played the guitar for a few weeks, my principles called a halt. If I was going to be a teacher (and a good one, at that), I wanted to teach something I knew about. So I entered the piano performance degree program. I was having some serious problems with my wrists by now, and I was smart enough to figure out that there was no way I would be doing six hours of practice a day, concertizing worldwide, and making a living! What was I to do?

The only course on piano pedagogy was in the second semester of senior year. It met for an hour once a week and culminated in a 20-page term paper. It was an excellent overview, but it offered no practical experience. So I taught on a volunteer basis throughout my junior and senior years. My students ran the gamut from a professor of business law (who later adopted my first guide dog when the dog had to retire), to a theater major who couldn't tell a quarter note from a fly. With that unusual experience in hand, when I came home after graduation with a few students already lined up for fall lessons, I knew the following:

  1. Bartok's "Mikrokosmos" is not suitable as a first book for beginning pianists with no musical background.
  2. Never laugh at students' mistakes.
  3. "Ask me again in five years" is not a suitable answer to any question beginning with "why" or "how come."
  4. Braille music is a MUST for any blind teacher working with sighted students.

Most importantly, I knew I had found my true calling: I loved to teach. My first recital featured seven students including two boys who hated piano but agreed to do a duet together. Of the original eight, five returned the following year, along with twelve newcomers. I had used my first summer off to add adult teaching materials to my library. (I had also decided not to make adults perform, even if their recital was completely separate from the children's.) In the two years since that time, I have continued to learn. I may no longer take formal piano lessons, but as a teacher I realize I must never stop educating myself. And as a blind teacher, I must work twice as hard as sighted colleagues who have unlimited access to print music and literature about teaching. I must find braille copies of the print music I want to use with students. I have to know the pieces I teach well. While I can play from memory, I rely on my sight-reading now more than ever. I can follow along in my scores when students are playing and make corrections for them when they have finished. I must also be very aware of what print music looks like, especially when I'm teaching beginners of any age. "What does that little curvy thing mean?" First, you must require students to be very specific about which curvy thing" they're looking at. Then, you must know how to explain in a way that will make sense to them. My studio, The Music Suite, is more correctly a piano school. It's now located completely outside my home, and I have a very small business selling restored pianos on the side.

My student roster hovers somewhere around 45 during the year and drops to about fifteen in the summer. Since this studio has become a full-time business, I am also learning about the non-musical side of being a successful teacher. Keeping accurate ledgers, sending out notices of upcoming events, planning lessons and making arrangements for student performance opportunities are all things I heard nothing about in college. Does blindness affect the way I teach? Of course. Sometimes, I am forced to work with music that is second-rate when I can't obtain anything else in braille. Other times, I must wait for the braille to arrive which postpones my teaching plans. I often ask parents to help with the first few lessons when their child is seeing music notation for the first time. No matter how familiar you are with a particular book, a student will always come up with something unexpected to ask or get confused by. The parent can make sure the child is looking at what I am describing.

Parents are also good about noticing things their children do that get past me. Sometimes, they can catch kids playing with weird fingerings or sitting incorrectly. The responsibility of a teacher is to know as much about their field as they can, and then to share that knowledge with others in a meaningful and understandable way. I don't only teach piano. I teach people about the joy of music. I also teach them that hard work and creativity are indispensable if you want to succeed. I arrange music for recitals and encourage my students to compose. This coming March, the studio will be hosting its first Piano Olympics with competitions in solo and duet performances, scale playing, composition, and a "Jeopardy"-style musical quiz game for teams. When I first went to college I had no idea what I would be doing. Now I only hope that I can continue to provide excellence and innovation in music education at the piano for a long time to come.



Welcome New Members!!

  1. Naveen Bose - student (guitar) 'Bethel' T.C.14/518 (1), Nandavanam, Trivandrum, India
  2. David Goldstein - The Music and Arts Center for The Handicapped; 600 University Ave., Bridgeport, CT 0660; (203) 366-3300
  3. Debbie Hernandez - parent
  4. Marcia Kogler - Teacher - Piano, Theory, Music Appreciation (retired); 219 Somerset L, Century Village, West Palm Beach, Fl 33417-2133
  5. Mary Long - Vision Consultant/Teacher, Northeast Service Cooperative; 1516 Anderson Road, Duluth, MN 55811; (218) 727-6167 (218) 723-4150 ext. 215
  6. Martin Monson - Teacher of Visually Impaired, Lane Regional Program; 200 N. Monroe, Eugene, OR 97402; (541) 710-3626 monson@4j.lane.edu
  7. Lisa Nelson - parent
  8. Stephanie Pieck - Teacher/Performer, The Music Suite; Box 22 Guilderland Center, New York 12085 (518) 861-7064
  9. John San Filippo - Teacher - Piano, The Lighthouse, 135-05 Hoover Ave. Apt E, Briarwood, NY 11435; (718) 793-3099
  10. Melody Smith - student (piano) 1505 Northpark Blvd. #17, San Bernardino, CA 92407; (909) 887-3904
  11. Cheryl Taylor - Performer/Teacher - Voice 135-05 Hoover Ave. Apt E, Briarwood, NY S11435; (718) 793-3099
  12. Edwin Zehner - parent

NOTE: Address changes and corrections will appear in our new upcoming Membership Roster. MENVI membership now exceeds 65 registered members worldwide.

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