Well, we’ve survived our first full day of classes here at Overbrook!Â I have to say this is the most Blog Posts I’ve ever made in a week, and while I have one more on Music with the Visually Impaired planned after this one, I do plan to give you readers (and myself!) a break or two over the next few days as Students and I here at the Braille Music Institute get accustomed to our schedules and the awesome curriculum and technology that are being offered.
Our mornings start around 7:45 when breakfast arrives from Lou, our fantastic cook (this morning it was scrambled eggs and toast, with an assortment of fresh fruit and yogurt for sides – yum!)
By 8:45 we’re in our first class, Touch and Sing, where students practice reading Braille Music in group singing exercises, and writing Braille Music Code on various note-taking devices in preparation for College Dictation Courses, where the instructor sings or plays a melody on the piano and the students have to write down what they hear – a big challenge for any musician, sighted or not!Â The melody is played multiple times that first day, with fewer and fewer repetitions as the week goes on, but the greatest challenge to Braille musicians over sighted ones is the fact that everything I as a sighted musician see laid out vertically on a page (chords, staves, etc) has to be notated horizontally for a Braille musician with things like interval and octave signs.Â So it takes them a little more time to dissect what they hear and lay it out on the page.Â The instructors here are excellent at teaching techniques to help students make the adaptations they need to get by in a sighted Music class.
After Touch and Sing, the students split into one of three areas: Braille, Computer, or Theory.Â In Braille they continue the concepts of Touch and Sing as applicable to their main instruments (like Piano, Voice or Guitar).Â The instructors here send out requests to each of their students’ teachers months in advance of this Institute to get their Music submitted and Brailled so they can work on them here, playing and reading at the same time where they can (for instruments like the Voice, where your hands are free) or learning and memorizing the music for instruments like the Piano and Guitar that require both hands to play.Â Again, time is the biggest disadvantage to Braille Music readers.Â Those that can’t play their instrument and read at the same time need the advance acquisition of their Music to memorize it in time to play as part of an ensemble, but this year, as with last year and all the years I’ve worked with Visually Impaired students, I find that those students who choose to participate in Music and are determined to be part of an ensemble are highly motivated and fast learners, who by the time they leave here can catch an error by ear lighting quick, skim their hand down to check the Braille Music as a reference and move on without skipping a beat!Â That’s the ultimate goal for their Braille Instructors here – efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.Â In Theory, those Braille Music Skills are applied to looking at multiple parts in a piece of music – perhaps their own and 3-4 others at a time, analyzing how the notes fit together and play off of each other, also a crucial part of Collegiate Music.Â Lastly computer ties it all together with lessons tailored towards inputting, editing and printing or embossing Music in accessible mediums.Â We’ll talk more about that in our next and last post in this series!
There are 7 periods total in the day, from Touch and Sing at 8:45 to 2 periods each in Braille, Theory, or Computer (one of each in the morning and one in the afternoon) up to 5:00 in the evening.Â At some point mid-day there is lunch, a brief break, and presentations or general fun planned – today it was a demo of some extra software we’ll also touch on in a future post, tomorrow it will be the Overbrook Aquatic Center where yours truly will enjoy a dip in the lazy river! – and then evenings are free for jamming, homework from the day’s classes, or just general hanging out.Â In fact I think I hear Lady Gaga coming from down the hall.Â Better go!
Coming up in a few days, our last post in the Overbrook series – Taking it on the Road: Technology for Visually Impaired Musicians. Archive Note: You can find the last post in this series HERE