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Music Education Network
For The Visually Impaired

A Coalition of Parents, Educators, and Students

MENVI Headquarters - Southern California Conservatory of Music,
8711 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352
Phone: (818) 767-6554; E-mail:
Spring/Summer Quarter 2000 Issue No.9


Specialists Committee Continues To Grow

MENVI Specialists and Advisors

We now have 13 officially appointed Specialists on the MENVI team. Our newest specialist for large print is Joan Hudson-Miller, President of LRS - Library Reproduction Services. LRS provides large print reproduction services in all areas including music manuscripts. MENVI Specialists now include:

Additional specialists are being sought in the areas of Music Therapy, band and choral directors, mobility (marching band, etc.), and Youth and Career Services Consultation. The MENVI Advisory team will remain composed exclusively of blind musicians, teachers, and student advisors.

Braille Music Literacy Is Increasing

Many professional music transcribers will attest to the fact that they are nearly overwhelmed with requests for braille music transcription. Even with wonderful technology available such as the Goodfeel music translator by Dancing Dots, Opus Dots Lite by Opus Technologies, and others, the demand for music braille continues to grow beyond the ability to produce it. Even as the challenges grow, new opportunities for blind students and musicians with equal access to music in its written form are increasing.

Music In Schools

The growth of music literacy and braille music education among blind students is clearly evidenced by the increase of its use in schools which includes many universities and colleges. Although there are no statistical figures available, the proportion of blind music students studying music literature and harmonic analysis by ear alone appears to be declining very rapidly. We are now aware that the largest music school in the world, Berklee College of Music in Boston, is now implementing new access technology and providing some curriculum in braille music format for its blind enrollment. Schools such as California State University at Fullerton are becoming fully equipped to receive braille files from transcribers by e-mail, and able to emboss on site. Blind jazz musicians performing complex arrangements by "rote" are becoming increasingly less common. We have much hope for the eventual inclusion of braille music as a requirement in the IEP (Individual Education Program) portfolios of blind elementary and high school students involved in school music programs. Statistics have recently been released that show 9 out of 10 blind adults who do have jobs DO READ BRAILLE! With music diplomas now being seriously considered in the hiring policies of many large corporations, it has become essential for music students to graduate college with all of the advantages that literacy can offer them.

Internet Access For Braille Literacy

A new on-line service for braille music users called "MIRACLE" is being developed and evaluated . An Internet database of participating libraries will offer catalogued titles that can be downloaded either for cost or free-of-charge. Once copyright issues and other problems are worked out, this project will give access to music for blind musicians the world over. For information on MIRACLE, write Vera Wessels at:

For music transcribers who work with music textbooks, Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Translation 1997 (Volume 1: Rules) is now available on the Web at The work is a BANA publication.

In November of 1999, an announcement was made that the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation compiled by Bettye Krolick may soon appear on the Web. We will make a future announcement of when and where. WYFIWY (What You Feel Is What You Get) Newsletter is a free monthly e-mail newsletter which highlights products and services presently available and discusses breakthroughs in technology of interest to the blind. There are columns, Customer Corner, Editorial Corner, Web Showcase Technical Tidbits, and Book Reviews among others. The newsletter is offered by BRL, INC. (Braille Research and Literacy, Inc.). Web Site:

The Library of Congress has launched "Web-Braille" for eligible blind and VI library users. They can now read their books on the Internet. Use is, however, restricted to U.S. or American citizens living abroad. For information, e-mail Robert E. Fistick

The "Braillem" listserve is a wonderful on-line medium for all interested in braille music and other issues relating to music and blind users. It reaches students, administrators, teachers, braille music readers, and just about everyone in the field. It is a fine forum to present questions and discussions regarding music. Those on the list are very courteous and anxious to share what they know with everyone. For how to subscribe, contact:

American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is on-line at "Fred's Head" on the Web Site at They also offer the "Alternate Media Producers Database." Transcribers (braille and large print) can add information to this database, making their information accessible worldwide. The "APH Repository" is a link when you click on "LOUIS" at the APH web site, or when you click on "Search LOUIS" on the CSMT web site. Of special interest to students, teachers, and transcribers, CSMT intends to send APH braille files that were produced for California students in textbook format.

Teaching For Tomorrow, Part II

With so much talk and excitement on the braille music and music literacy front, it becomes ever so important to reinforce strong foundations. Successful use of the music code and its purpose will depend heavily on preparation at the most basic level. Nothing is more frustrating for a teacher who works daily with the reality of proficient blind music readers than to hear of students who "... tried it, but got very discouraged!" All professions have plenty of horror stories regarding losses due to ignorance whether in medicine or educational pedagogy.

Real success for student and teacher begins

on the grass roots level. This educator maintains that most nearly any teacher can teach an advanced student, but the real skill comes in working with the beginner. Unfortunately, popular trends often put the most inexperienced teachers with the earliest learners a very big mistake!

Since we have had so many requests for copies of the article Teaching for Tomorrow, appearing in MENVI news in 1997, we are presenting it here once again as a re-print.

We have learned much about academic development through the teaching of music. At the SCCM Braille Music Division, we have seen youngsters begin new lives in the world of literary braille by means of their own natural musical gifts. We must, however, continue tolook well beyond the obvious advantages of providing music to our children, and beyond merely providing the opportunity to play a musical instrument. Whether a youngster will plan for music studies in college, or simply to play a band instrument in middle or high school, we have a serious obligation to see that proper ground workis done at the earliest levels. Care must be taken to see that music fundamentals are established as real academic skills that can be built upon by future teachers. There is perhaps no subject more difficult to re-teach than music. It is for this reason that music classes are the one subject area that most universities and conservatories will not allow direct transfer credits. Students normally must either test out of a subject, or re-take it. In music, unlike other academic subjects, one must be able to clearly demonstrate skills required you simply can't "fake" it!

The SCCM Braille Music Division has the opportunity of advising and serving the music transcription needs of at least 8 middle schools and several universities. It is from this vantage point that we are able to observe the weaknesses in braille music disciplines. Schools are becoming aware that blind students can use written music just as sighted students, and are requiring these skills at an accelerating rate. They are no longer forced to treat VH students musically different, other than procuring the specialized media required. We must, therefore, insist on requiring and providing specific approaches and good pedagogy for the youngest of children. The educational consequences of weak fundamentals for a musical child can be just as devastating as the inability to read or write.


We have provided a short strategy list of musical priorities that can be taught to children at very early levels. Parents can handle many of these items themselves without actually being music teachers or even musically trained. As far as teachers are concerned, you are the professionals. Do not shortchange your students musically. Do not make the mistake of assuming that sight singing and interval recognition is only for college students. The following list of skills is highly recommended as an essential "gateway," to all music AND braille music skills.


  1. Scale structure: SING, do re mi fa sol la ti do AND scale numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.
  2. Recognize varied scale steps when played on piano. (Parents can easily learn where middle C is located, and drill step recognition daily).
  3. Recognize "intervals," i.e. the numbers of scale steps between different notes in the C scale, using middle C as "home-base."
  4. Sing back small groups of notes when played on the piano. 5. Understand and recognize the different sound of major and minor chords (Sunny? Cloudy?)
  5. Play little note groups making a game out of recognizing when home-base or middle C is played.
  6. Play short melodies of 2-4 (or more) notes, and ask the student to write the scale numbers they hear on a braille writer (melodic dictation).


  1. Teach simple alphabetical principles by asking students to recite the scale from various points in the musical alphabet, i.e. a b c d e f g a; b c d e f g ab; c d e f g a bc, etc.
  2. Clap and play simple rhythmic patterns, asking students to clap them back.

Third Annual Membership Meeting

We wish to thank the MENVI Specialists and members who participated in our annual membership meeting at the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH) 41st State conference on March 25, 2000. The conference was held in Ontario, California on March 23-25. This special session was conducted as an open forum for interaction between members at large and MENVI Specialists.

Welcome To New Members!

  1. Sylvia Clark, Edinburg, TX
  2. Jacqueline Clifton, London, UK
  3. Melissa Hirschon, Boston, MA
  4. Millie Irwig, Stilwell, KS
  5. Christina Lockerby, Ontario, Canada
  6. Bill McIver, Anchorage, Alaska
  7. Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA
  8. Holly Russell, Bethel Park, PA
  9. Eric L. Shaw, Rutland, VT

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