Introducing Music Education
Network for the Visually Impaired
by Richard Taesch
From the Editor: In general education circles in recent years, people have become increasingly aware of the importance of music education to the entire child, particularly with respect to developing skills in mathematics and logic. This discovery or rediscovery has obvious implications for blind youngsters as well. (See the article "Music Education: Not Just a Frill" in the Summer, 1997, issue of Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.)
The following article first appeared in the MENVI (Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired) Fall/Winter, 1997, newsletter. Richard Taesch is the director and founder of the Braille Music Division of the Southern California Conservatory of Music near Los Angeles and has chaired the conservatory's Department of Guitar since 1976. He also serves as Music Specialist for CTEVH (California Transcribers and Educators of The Visually Handicapped) and writes for their journal.
MENVI is a coalition of parents, educators, and students. Its advisory committee is made up entirely of blind musicians and teachers. MENVI exists for and is managed by blind musicians. It is committed to the principle that the needs of blind students of music are unique. Parents have a right to know what is available for their children in music education, and educators must have access to specialized materials and know how to use them. Not all teachers of music know the Braille music code. They should, however, encourage Braille music literacy at the earliest opportunity. MENVI provides a network of information as well as a resource guide to Braille music and the teaching of blind children and adults. Here is Mr. Taesch's article:
Teaching For Tomorrow
We have learned much about academic development through the teaching of music. At the Southern California Conservatory of Music, 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 to look 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 to pursue 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 groundwork is done at the most basic levels. Care must be taken to see that music fundamentals are established as real academic skills that can be built upon by future teachers. Perhaps no subject is more difficult to re-teach than music. It is for this reason that music classes are the one subject area in which most universities and conservatories will not allow direct transfer of credits. Normally students must either test out of a subject or re-take it. In music, unlike other academic subjects, you must be able clearly to demonstrate skills requiredyou can't simply fake it!
The SCCM Braille Music Division has the opportunity to advise about and serve the music-transcription needs of at least eight middle schools and several universities. From this vantage point 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 do and are requiring these skills at an accelerating rate. They are no longer forced to treat VH students differently, other than procuring the specialized media required.
We must, therefore, insist on requiring and providing specific approaches and good pedagogy for even the youngest children. The educational consequences of weak fundamentals for a musical blind child can be just as devastating as the inability to read or write.
For more information contact Richard Taesch, SCCM Braille Music
Division, 8711 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley, California 91352,
Phone: (818) 767-6554, e-mail: <[email protected]>