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Music Education Network
- for The Visually Impaired -

A Coalition of Parents, Educators, and Students

- MENVI Headquarters -
SCCM - 8711 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352
Phone: (818) 767-6554; E-mail:
News Journal - Winter/Spring Quarter 2004 Issue No. 17

- Amazing Technology Discovered -
- Students Help Educators Educate; MENVI On Line -


It has come to our attention that a new access technology for visually impaired individuals has been discovered. We have all heard of an early device that - when placed upon one's head - enabled a blind person to actually see print. It was capable of transmitting a print image directly to the brain of a blind individual.

Upon "seeing" print music, one MENVI specialist once commented: "How do you guys read that stuff?" Well, considering the complex and graphic nature of print music - which makes no sense logically speaking - one might understand why digital technology has become so popular. (A note of trivia: Morse and International code is radio's oldest form of digital communication.)

The technology we are speaking of is a medium capable of bypassing the eye and allowing a blind person not only to see the printed and spoken word directly in the rain, but even to hear music! Even in its most basic form, this medium requires no expensive and complex equipment - no electricity, no batteries! In fact, it is virtually available to everyone anywhere who desires independence.

Imagine! A blind user can actually place his or her hand upon this device, and instantly actualize any print or music medium that is available to the sighted. This "new" technology is called braille. Like the International or Morse code, it is truly "our only direct human digital communications mode ..."* Incredible technology, indeed!

*American Radio Relay League - ARRL Southwestern Division Newsletter, January, 2004.


Yes, a blind music reader can effectively be the creator of his or her own transcriptions, with or without technology. Other than perhaps the good ol' telephone, little or no technology is needed for certain music transcription (other than a light bulb for the vision-dependent reader.

There are many stories about dedicated parents dictating print music to a young student, while the Perkins or slate and stylus clatter away. None so special as our young violinist who was told by her school teachers that braille music was much too slow and not practical. This, after years of mother and daughter dictation of print to Perkins for orchestra music. (see the MENVI on line list Discussions page) Once the music became too complex for the team to handle, a few pieces were faxed to a transcriber to test the erroneous advice. In a few days the music files for the violin II parts were transcribed, emailed, embossed, and in the girl's hands. There she sat in rehearsal, waiting for the sighted readers to catch up!

Below is an interesting article from one of our members who has translated a church hymnal into braille piano arrangements for blind accompanists. The entire project was completed by Melody Smith, while her energetic teacher dictated the print to her - note by note! Such is an example of a very fine music teacher who was willing to be creative, and to increase her own knowledge as well.

By Melody Smith

Are you ever frustrated when the music you wish to learn is not yet available in braille? If you follow some simple guidelines, you can braille the music yourself!

In the last few years I have begun translating the LDS hymns into a piano format. I have found this experience to be challenging and exciting. All it takes is a good family member, a friend, or teacher who is dedicated and has some background in music notation.

There are three things that will happen when you embark upon this process. First, both of you will encounter moments of frustration. Second, you will learn to work as a team. Third, you will learn the braille music code at a much deeper level than before. Why? Because you now become the teacher! As such, you must be able to explain how braille music differs from print music, the method you will be using, and the order in which it is to be dictated. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Begin with something easy.
  2. Know how to explain octave marks and the rules that govern them.
  3. Learn how to explain intervals and which direction (up or down) that they will read.
  4. When you are ready to move on to more difficult music, be ready to explain such things as in-accords, phrases, dynamics, etc.
  5. Be specific about the order of how the material is to be dictated. For example, you would not want to hear "quarter note C fourth octave," or to have the accidental announced following the note name.
  6. Have the person that you are working with use a reference book such as, "How To Read Braille Music" by Bettye Krolick.

I truly hope that this will help you to experience the satisfaction of brailling your own music.


There is always opportunity for music readers and transcribers alike to make mistakes with octave marks. Is it up? Is it down? When does it do what? Such seemingly complex rules continue to baffle the braille music readers and transcribers, but the rules themselves are quite simple, and very few. Hopefully the following little guidelines might help to keep it as simple for you as our international code makers have intended. If you think you have some better ways of saying it, or if we've overlooked something, PLEASE do send us your input.

  1. Always use a new octave mark when moving up or down an interval of a sixth - or more - even in the same octave. Think of intervals from the lower note up to the higher note.
  2. An octave mark is necessary when moving an interval of a fourth or a fifth when crossing over into a new octave. Passing the Note C will always place us in a new octave!
  3. Always use a new octave mark on a new line of music.
  4. Always use an octave mark following a word sign.

These little rules should take care of most basic situations. We hope they will be helpful.


In many ways it is quite refreshing to see that many of our members still rely on old-fashioned means of information such as braille and mail (no rhyme intended). Clearly, we are becoming an Internet-dependant society, however, we must submit to the many good things that it can and does bring to us.

One "good thing" is our new MENVI Website. The site has made the processing of new members who are on line much simpler. Unlike other organizational sites, the MENVI site has made news journals, articles, and most everything - except for our membership roster - available to anyone who cares to go and click. Some folks prefer to receive their news journals on line, however, many still require print or braille.

Watch for the "Articles" section to grow in the coming months. There is no shortage of fine published information that is available in our field, and we encourage viable articles from our members as well. If you are interested in seeing your articles posted on the page, contact us, and we'll be most anxious to review them. Your experiences and problem solving are important to all of us. See the MENVI Website at:

A little reminder from MENVI Headquarters is - if you are on line, be sure to fill out a NEW application form on the Website should you need changes made in your roster or mailing list contact information. Changes on cocktail napkins, old newsletters, voice mail, email messages, smoke signals, or Morse code, will probably not be processed.


Granted, a listserve can sometimes be a pain in you-know-where, but we urge those on line to consider (or re-consider) their subscription to this valuable resource. Unlike the Website itself - sponsored for MENVI by Superior Software, Inc., the list is completely separate from, and not affiliated with, the Network. It is, however, a fine service that has been contributed by its moderator, Jared Rimer, available exclusively to our members by subscription only.

We have made every effort to see that the list mailings are kept to a minimum by separating "Announcement" and "Discussion" portions. Discussions are actually more rare these days than our subscribers would like. If you have any doubts of the value of the Discussion list, go to the Articles page of our Website, where you can see posting of past list discussions of special importance. If you would like to see your list discussions and comments posted on the site - be adventuresome and START ONE! Heaven knows your humble editor has launched many a heated discussion by sending up his own missiles (big smile). Toss one in, sit back, and enjoy the fun.


On the rather serious side of practicality, our primary network medium - braille and print news journals - could become an endangered species. When we began the mailings some years back, the cost of printing, embossing, and mailing was manageable. We have been most grateful to Braille Institute of America (Los Angeles) for producing and mailing our braille and print at a very low cost.

Our membership has grown wonderfully, however, so have the costs. The production cost of membership rosters alone is approaching $1,000 yearly, and news journals could soon top the $600.00 mark each quarter.

There are no financial sponsors for our network, and costs are completely absorbed by SCCM - which is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation itself. Editing, printing, handling, folding, etc. of print is all done by staff in "spare" time. Braille transcription, proofreading, article writing and compilation are all extremely time consuming, and yet always a labor of love.

Considering that nearly half of our members are not on line, should MENVI be required to resort to our sponsored Website for all mailings and correspondence, many folks worldwide will be denied the benefits of the registry as we know it. It is a sad fact of reality, but we are definitely headed toward being devoured by the dreaded Internet monster unless we can find help.

Dues are not required for membership in the MENVI Network. And yet, the network has been solely responsible for bringing people together worldwide who have a common need, and within easy reach to the specialists who serve them. No other organization in music and education for the blind has ever been able to accomplish this.

If you would like to help, consider becoming a "Supporting Member" by sending a yearly contribution - tax deductible - to SCCM specified "for MENVI support." Do what you can, but please help us fight the monster waiting to reduce all of us to an inevitable point-and-click existence! Even half of our members at $10.00 a year will make a dramatic difference. Membership in the Network will continue to be free to all, and contributions for support - though appreciated - are strictly voluntary.


The 45th CTEVH conference is March 12- 14 at LAX Marriott. MENVI sessions will include:

Let's begin 2004 with an energetic crusade to offer school and band music participation to EVERY BLIND CHILD. Tomorrow's college students are today's elementary and middle school children. Music truly does matter!

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