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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) 790-5903; E-mail:
Winter/Spring Quarter 2001 Issue No. 10

- Careers in Education for Blind Musicians -
List Serve Inquiry Inspires Online

Career Discussion

A MENVI member recently posted the following insightful question on a new Internet List Serve: "For blind teachers, how many are there in universities and colleges, and public schools etc ...? How do you impose yourselves on those who think a blind teacher cannot teach an instrument? What methods ...? Are there any books that talk about these issues? ..., etc.?" The resulting discussion was truly something wonderful a clear reminder of what our network is all about! A list of at least twenty blind career teachers and musicians were posted, and perhaps a dozen more appeared as responses followed. Richard Taesch responded to the following specific question, and the discussion accelerated from there: "... how do you impose yourself on those who think a blind teacher cannot teach an instrument?" Response: "You can't 'impose' yourself, 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 about 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 quite welcome in non-performing and even certain business-related careers.

Slate and Stylus Don't Toss it Yet!

Another wonderful stir brought about by one lister's question about the slate and stylus: "... With the vast amount of technology available to visually impaired and blind users today, do you think that the slate and stylus should be used as a practical tool for writing long documents in our school system? Following is a self-explanatory summary of some of the responses:

"I think it is archaic ... If I were blind, I would carry a mini cassette recorder rather than a slate to put phone numbers, ... why would anyone bother with it?" (Editor's two cents: did anyone notice that this contributor is sighted? Have we not yet had enough problems resulting from the sighted thinking for the blind?) Here are a few comments and responses from blind listers: "I couldn't disagree much more (grin)! My slate and stylus are like a sighted person's pen and scratch pad. Even in this age of high-tech gadgets, how often do sighted people pick up that pen or pencil? My slate is cheap, portable, and has never needed to be rebooted! I am totally blind and have had a slate and stylus handy for all of my professional life. When I was studying for my undergraduate music degree, I used to take music dictation using my slate. I'd sing it back to my teacher or read him all the individual note names after class if it was a formal test". prominent Software Developer

"... we developed an incredible speed that I found useful in college. My speed was comparable to a sighted person writing by pen, and I even beat some of them in college when teachers dictate something (a quotation etc...) Teaching a blind student to write with a stylus and slate is very important. It doesn't need power that would break down on you unexpectedly, or some sort of mechanical gadget that would not cooperate in some occasions etc... Although I have my Braille Lite with me all the time wherever I go, I always make sure to have my stylus and slate as well especially when I travel." Guitarist,

University Graduate, and Educator Once again, Blind "Sight" Readers Prove Their Point! A student from Berklee College of Music in Boston recently attended a three-week "Intensive Training" session at Southern California Conservatory of Music. Before the session was complete, this young lady demonstrated her ability to read braille chord progressions with either hand while performing LIVE up-to-tempo with a jazz ensemble. In one musical gymnastic, Katie was able to switch hands during a chorus, then when the repeat came due, she would again switch hands while reading the melodic line with her left hand and playing with her right! As if this wasn't enough to intimidate anyone, she then proceeded to perform an inspiring jazz improvisation while tracking the harmonic progression with her left hand and soloing with her right. For the doubting few, a video tape of one of her sessions was made so don't put your bets in just yet. The secret to this skill for a blind pianist is to learn the fundamental ii-V-I progressions thoroughly in the left hand with the right hand completely out of the picture. (See Fall and Winter 1999 of the CTEVH Journals for a suggested learning/teaching approach.)

A twelve-year-old SCCM student was recently given the task of reading bar-over-bar rhythmic exercises (generally tapped out one part at a time) yes, you guessed it, with BOTH hands on the two braille lines while tapping both feet to the rhythms. Slowly, measure by measure, she was able to coordinate all the parts, even those that would fall on the same beats right foot for right hand part, and left for left!

Another adult blind pianist, somewhat new to braille music reading, demonstrated his ability to learn a two-page Grade 5 repertoire piece in about one day. This was actually faster than many Grade 5 sighted students will read and memorize a piece for a performance. This student, incidently, works as a professional jazz musician, and had primarily functioned by ear- alone before formal training. Although not true "sight reading" in this case, the argument against the practicality of braille music has clearly lost all credibility in this millennium.

Speaking of Braille Music and College The SUMMER MUSIC INSTITUTE - Resources for Blind Musicians - announces its three-week, residential program for braille users who have been taking music lessons at home and are serious about gaining skills necessary for the study of music in college. Areas taught include braille music, computer notation and arranging skills, theory, keyboard, and ensemble. Held on a college campus, students have opportunities to live and work in a true-to- life situation. For an application to the Summer Institute, or to reach the National Resource Center, contact David Goldstein, Director, National Resource Center for Blind Musicians, MACH, 600 University Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06601; Phone (203) 366-3300' E-mail

New Online List Serve Available for MENVI Members

Thanks to Student Advisor, Jared Rimer, for his contribution of a new online List Serve available to our members.To subscribe:

  1. Send an email to
  2. Topica will send a message to which you must reply. Put nothing in the body or subject.
  3. A request will be sent to a List Owner for approval. You will then be notified of acceptance by email

Although the "list" is not a direct service of the MENVI Network, it is a valuable forum for members to exchange ideas on line. We ask members to keep in mind the following with regards to any such online activities: The MENVI (Topica) list is being contributed solely as a voluntary and completely independent project offered for participating MENVI on-line subscribers. It is in no way directly sponsored by MENVI or its members, nor is it a requirement for membership in the network. The views, interests, protocol, and/or conduct on this list are not necessarily representative of MENVI services, MENVI Specialists, and/or Advisors. The MENVI network remains a property of its members, and all Advisors are exclusively blind musicians, teachers, students, and administrators. The "Network" exists ONLY for the purpose of embracing and gathering interests, resources, specialists, and providers in the field of music education for blind students and musicians. Newsletters and rosters for members are available on line. You may receive back issues and other MENVI materials by contacting Jared Rimer:

Welcome New Members!

  1. Dennis Close, Urbana, ILL
  2. Mary Davis, Oakland, CA
  3. Rebecca Lindsay, Baltimore, MD
  4. Stuart and Leslianne McClain; Elliot McClain, Old Hickory, TN
  5. Steve Trussoni, Halifax, Nova Scotia

New Curriculum Soon Available

"An Introduction to Music for The Blind Student," Part 1 by Richard Taesch will soon become available for sale. Watch also for: "Introduction to Piano for The Blind Student," Book 1 (R. Taesch), and for "Examination Pieces and Studies for Blind Students" by Grant Horrocks and Richard Taesch. Watch announcements for publication dates and details.

This concludes newsletter 10. Please note Jared's address has since changed, so look at contacting Jared through the roster, or on the contact webmaster link. Please choose from the following MENVI links below to continue.

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