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Music Education Network
-for The Visually Impaired -

An International Coalition of Parents, Educators, and Students

- MENVI Headquarters -
So. Calif. Conservatory of Music - 8230 Fallbrook Avenue, West Hills, CA 91304
Phone: (818) 704-3819; E-mail:
News Journal - Spring 2006 Issue No. 22

In this issue:

John di Francesco, 1919-2005 A very special Music Braille Library

Portions of the following have been excerpted from the Library of Congress "Update" periodical (October-December 2005, Vol. 28, No. 4)

As many know, John di Francesco - opera singer and musician, educator, and braille music authority - passed away on September 20, 2005. He was eighty-six years old.

John di Francesco was mentored by opera star Ezio Pinza in his early training years, and in 1949 appeared as Pinza's protege on a CBS television special. He graduated summa cum laude in 1944 from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He conducted many sighted choirs, and became music director and teacher at California School for the Blind in Berkeley. He founded the Vista College Chamber Chorale in 1979, and served as protestant choir director at the Alameda Naval Air station. He also served for decades as a proofreader for the Library of Congress, and generously accepted the appointment for us as a MENVI Advisor.

Although it may or may not be on any official record, the donation of a large braille library by the estate of Carlton Eldridge - musician, educator, lecturer, and theologian - brought a very interesting parallel to our attention by Mr. Eldridge's widow.

Southern California Conservatory of Music received Mr. di Francesco's entire braille and print vocal and choral library through his donation some years before he died. Later, Mrs. Eldridge related a story of how Carlton and John as colleagues and music braille authorities had been in vigorous disagreement as to how vocal format would become standardized as we know it today. Carlton believed that the music line should be first, at the margin, and that the lyrics should occupy the second line of the parallel. John believed that the reverse was best. History has proven that John di Francesco's formatting preference prevailed, and is now the standard. How special it is that both libraries of these great men now exist in the same archive.


One very exciting outcome from our workshop on music textbooks at the CTEVH conference is that of a new online subscribers' list for textbook transcribers. Many work in tandem projects with music transcribers, and others sometimes only need a source of minimal information regarding music excerpts. Textbook transcribers are able to meet with common interests and post questions and solutions to typical music / textbook issues.

To register, go to: Once subscribed, feel free to join the group and share your information and expertise with us. To post:

Thanks to Superior Software, and our MENVI Webmaster for contributing his time, and or offering the MENVI domain for this important project. Everyone is invited to visit the Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired anytime at:


Karen Gearreald, music transcriber Instructor for The Library of Congress and MENVI Transcriber Training Specialist, has provided us with a list of newly certified music transcribers. Members are asked to update their list from Roster 10 to the following:

  1. Becker, Lindley - Fl
  2. Bertevelli, Isabel - Brasil
  3. Conn, Jacqui - Australia
  4. Davis, Cheryl - TX
  5. Dodson, Christine - TX
  6. Dortch, Richard (Valley Braille Service) - NV
  7. Downing, Bettie - FL
  8. Gensler, Elizabeth - OH
  9. Glaeser, Margaret - CA
  10. Harris, Terry - CA
  11. Hirshson, Melissa (NBP) - MA
  12. Irwig, Millie - KS
  13. Jackson, David B. - NY
  14. Lehman, Heidi - France
  15. Kelly, Carolyn - NV
  16. McKenney, Beverly (NBA) - FL
  17. Roberts-Duspasquier, Cheryl - Canada
  18. Scarborough, Victoria - KY
  19. Shellman, Lyale - CA
  20. Smith, Lawrence (NBA) - MI
  21. Wallace, Ruth - CA
  22. Walton, Lindy - WI
  23. Wright, Sari (BrailleWright) - Canada


  1. Bertevelli, Isabel - Brasil
  2. Butow, Peggy (retired) - WI
  3. Chen, Chiwei (flute) - Taiwan
  4. Daniels, Alan (guitar) - CT
  5. Del Castillo, Tony - CA
  6. Conn, Jacqui - Australia
  7. Durant, Pamela - VT
  8. Gearreald, Karen (NLS) - VA
  9. Keys, Melissa - TX
  10. Kouzes, Leslie (cello; piano; voice) - IL
  11. Pieck, Stephanie (piano) - NY
  12. Sanfilippo, John (Lighthouse) - NY
  13. Siligo, Wayne (CSB) - CA
  14. Simpson, David - PA
  15. Tavis, Carole - CA
  16. Utter, Kevin - CO
  17. Vaca, Chuy - CA
  18. Vaca, Kia - CA
  19. Young, Maureen - NY
The preceding lists may not be complete. They are based solely upon available information provided to us by members. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


At a meeting in January of 2006 with Los Angeles City College Center on Disabilities, Richard Taesch (SCCM), and Braille Institute of America, it was decided to proceed with a preparatory support training program in music braille and related studies for blind students entering the LACC Music Department. Susan Metranga, Director of LACC Disabilities Services, then contacted the Director of the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge, Dr. Mary Ann Cummins-Prager. A concept of community college training for blind students not yet ready to enter the university was enthusiastically received. SCCM Braille Music Division would provide academc support and advise the effort. Richard. Taesch's course, "An Introduction to Music for The Blind Student," Part I was chosen to become the text and training system. The course is now being taught at Braille Institute of America located next to Los Angeles City College.

SCCM Braille Music Division Support Services are available for blind students at California State University, Northridge

For blind students entering the CSUN Music Department, the following support services and opportunities are now available to the university through a special new partnership:

  1. Referrals through SCCM and the MENVI Network (Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired) to California State University, Northridge(CSUN is located geographically close to the Conservatory.)
  2. SCCM recommends CSUN as a viable VI- friendly and supportive educational environment for blind music majors.
  3. As Music Specialist for the California Transcribers and Educators for the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH), Richard Taesch provides information on music braille and specialized counseling to CSUN (and others) without charge.
  4. SCCM offers concurrent support study enrollment and preparatory training for all blind CSUN music students. Braille transcribing of special music materials is provided through the Braille Music Division.
  5. The SCCM library of braille music and music reference books is available for use by CSUN at any time. SCCM's database of music braille is well over 4,000 titles. Many more braille books on music, methods, articles, and resource texts are also available for reference in the SCCM library.
  6. SCCM presented - with the CSUN Center on Disabilities - a workshop on music and career options for blind students on March 21, 2006 at the Conference on Disabilities in Los Angeles. The conference is presented yearly by California State University, Northridge, and is the largest in the world.

For further information on any of these activities, please contact:

A Blind Music Student's College Survival Guide - An advance peek

Real experiences with the college dilemma have inspired this work for blind students and their professors. It is a very short work of about 30 pages [16 point], and is intended for helpful and concise guidelines. Subjects covered in the book are:

  1. Where to Start - Myths and Facts
  2. Braille as a Language - Philosophy or Fact
  3. Advocacy, Self-advocacy, and Preparation
  4. What to do once accepted to college / funding?
  5. Testing out / outside study
  6. Tips for the Sighted Professor
  7. Syllabi for Transcribers - the good, the bad, and the ugly
  8. Labor and Vocational Statistical Resources for Musicians

Here are a few of the Myths and Facts that are explored in the little guidebook:

  1. MYTH: All textbooks must be fully prepared in braille prior to beginning classes.
  2. MYTH: It is a blind student's responsibility to make sure that he or she obtains the services of a music transcriber.
  3. MYTH: One primary problem for braille readers is that of poor "turn-around- time" on the part of over-worked transcribers, and the fact that there are so few experienced music transcribers available.

Educators are professionals in their fields. Blind students must know their own needs, how to obtain support, how to advocate for themselves, and how to respectfully "educate their educators."


With a focus on music in education, opportunities for blind music people, and vocational options emerging for more musically trained individuals, we felt that the following article from the Dancing Dots President and MENVI Specialist, Bill McCann, might be in order. Following is Part 1 of the AER published article.

Note: The following article first appeared in the fall newsletter of AER's Education Curriculum Division and is reprinted here with permission.
By Bill McCann
[PART 1]
The author is a blind musician, entrepreneur and the founder of Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology, L.P. of Valley Forge, PA. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Philadelphia's University of the Arts and has worked in the information technology and assistive technology fields since 1982.

What do you do when one of your blind or low vision students wants to join a school music ensemble or is required to enroll in a general music course? How can you find ways to support that student by partnering with music educators, parents and/or other school staff to build a network that works for your student? If you yourself are not a musician, how can you find ways to compensate for the lack of those skills in order to help your student to progress?

In the following article, I will summarize the common challenges, offer some ideas that may work for you and point you to resources that should be helpful. The ideas below apply mainly to braille readers. I hope that this article can serve as a starting point for generating ideas and shared practices for successfully integrating not only that population but also low vision and students with multiple disabilities into the music classroom and school ensembles. In general, one size definitely does not fit all. A creative, flexible approach combined with team-building will typically best serve the student's needs.

Role of the Vision Teacher

Since 1992, we at Dancing Dots have worked hard to create technology for blind people and those who educate them that will solve or, at least, make significant progress toward solving the following challenges: automatically converting printed music into braille; permitting a blind musician to independently create a printed score or multi-track sound recordings of his or her musical ideas. We have made great progress. But our technology alone has no power to alter misconceptions of music educators, inform students and families of new possibilities, and integrate blind students into school music programs and ensembles. That's where CTEVH members come in.


If a student reads literary braille, that student can and should learn to read music braille. The level of resistance to learning to read music in braille on the part of most students increases in direct proportion to the length of time between when he starts to play an instrument and when music literacy skills are introduced. Even students who play by ear very well and even have perfect pitch benefit from acquiring the skill of reading music.

Louis Braille invented music braille at the same time he created his code for text and arithmetic. A single braille cell can show both the name of the note and its rhythmic value. Braille invented his code largely out of frustration with having to try to read tactile images of staff notation, a system which is optimal for the human eye but not the human finger. New technology now makes it much easier and cheaper to create such tactile images of staff notation but Professor Braille (and all blind musicians with him) would still reject such materials as impractical as a primary learning medium for the blind. Such resources are definitely very helpful in acquainting blind musicians with how sighted classmates view music but a blind student should never be expected to learn new material using tactile images of staff notation.

Prof. Braille's system is perfectly suited to the way blind people read. One reads braille music sequentially and horizontally from left to right. To read one's part, there is no vertical component as in print notation.

End of Part 1

In The Next Issue:

Mr. McCann's AER article will continue in our Summer issue. The subjects will move on to include: Common Problems, Challenges, and will offer recommendations and special educational resources. Meanwhile, he can be reached at:

NOTE: Following is a recent article prepared at the request of Roger Firman, editor of the BRAILLE MUSIC MAGAZINE. The magazine is a British product which is published under the auspices of the Royal National Institute for the Blind. (Reproduced here with permission.)
by Karen Gearreald
[PART 1]
The author is Braille Music Advisor and Transcriber Training Instructor for The Library of Congress. She is a blind musician and music educator, and also serves as MENVI appointed Specialist under the title of: "Music Transcriber Training and Certification."

As recently as the 1990's, users of braille music were wondering whether music was a dying or at best a shrinking aspect of the braille code. The corps of sighted music braillists seemed to be dwindling, and young blind musicians were not learning the code as a matter of course. Moreover, the relationship between technology and braille music seemed unclear. Could computers and audio recordings threaten or even supplant the braille music code?

Today the situation is healthier and happier. New braillists are being trained and certified, young students are studying the code, and technology has proved to be a boon rather than a bane. At Roger Firman's request, I am happy to provide the following detailed report. For the benefit of readers who have computer access, I am including a number of pertinent web sites. I will also be delighted to provide additional information to anyone who makes direct contact with me by postal mail, by telephone, or by email:

Though this article necessarily focuses on the United States, I hope to continue strengthening my contacts with users and providers of braille music throughout the world. We all need to work together, share, communicate, and appreciate one another. As users of braille music, we applaud the efforts of librarians, educators, braille printing houses, and individual braillists--anyone and everyone who champions braille music. After all, music is such a compact form of braille that even in a small space of relatively few shelves, a serious blind musician can house an impressive library of important works. As a congenitally blind pianist and singer, I have gradually acquired a personal collection of treasured braille scores from many countries. Now, as braille music advisor for the United States Library of Congress, I have the privilege of furthering the cause of braille music for users in North America and beyond.

For many years the official source for training and certification of braillists in the United States has been the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. For those transcribers who complete the basic course in literary braille, advanced training has long been available in mathematics and music. Moreover, the Music Section of the National Library Service maintains and circulates a large collection of music materials in braille, audio, and large-print formats. The head of the Music Section is Dr. John Hanson

Since 1971 the textbook for the braille music transcription course has been INTRODUCTION TO BRAILLE MUSIC TRANSCRIPTION by Mary Turner de Garmo. To accommodate recent trends and changes in braille music, this book has now been thoroughly revised and splendidly expanded by a dedicated team. The principal reviser, Dr. Lawrence R. Smith, has been ably assisted by Bettye Krolick, Beverly McKenney, and Sandra Kelly. After first being circulated to four pilot students, the book was made available in manuscript form in the spring of 1993 for all new enrollees in the music course. By the time you read this article, the officially published version of the book should be available in ink-print and in braille. In addition, the book will be posted on the NLS web site in "pdf" format. Requests for the ink-print or braille edition should be directed to Dr. Hanson. Though primarily designed for students of the transcription course, the book will be valuable to a much larger community of educators, librarians, and braille readers.

Part 2 will be continued in the next issue.


Millie Irwig of NBA Music Committee has generously provided this fine list of links for searching braille music listings. We hope to include the links soon on our Website.

  1. CNIB (Canada)
  2. RNIB (reveal online database) Reveal Web's web site
  3. National Library for the Blind - web site National Library for the Blind -
  4. Lighthouse light house web site
  5. National Braille Association, Inc. National Braille Association, Inc. Phone: 585-427-8260
  6. NLS (Library of Congress) E-mail: NLS web site Phone: 800-424-8567
  7. American Printing House for the Blind E-mail: Phone: 800-223-1839


March 2006 was the time for California Transcribers and Educators of theVisually Handicapped annual state conference in Anaheim. SCCM Braille Music Division Co- chair, Grant Horrocks, was elected as Vice-president of the organization. Musical performances sponsored by SCCM were part of nearly every activity at CTEVH this year. Stephanie Pieck, MENVI Specialist, educator, and concert pianist from New York performed. She also served as a panelist for two workshops presented by CTEVH Music Specialist, Richard Taesch. Recording Artist and staff assistant at SCCM, Jessica Callahan, dazzled everyone with her sensitive and moving performances.

California State University - Northridge Center on Disabilities also conducted its world known conference at LAX one week following CTEVH. Jessica Callahan was also on hand to perform with an SCCM jazz ensemble along with Rachel Flowers. SCCM provided the musical program for the opening reception of the conference, at which the new partnership between SCCM and the Center on Disabilities at CSUN was formally announced.

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