Future Reflections Fall 1990, Vol. 9 No. 3

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JUNIOR HIGH, THE BLIND TEACHER, AND MUSIC

By Pat Munson

The following article is taken from the Spring!Summer, 1990 issue of The Blind Educator, a publication of the National Association of Blind Educators, a Division of the National Federation of the Blind.

When the bell rang, there were 100 girls and one teacher~me. The first few days of the semester were spent in testing voices to make sure the girls could sing and also in placing them in the correct section. I had two soprano sections and one alto.

For a seating chart, I used a huge piece of cardboard which I had divided into 100 sections, one section for each seat. I used strips of masking tape to divide the seat sections. Then as a girl was tested, I had cut the paper into pieces big enough for the name in both Braille and print. I then took a piece of masking tape and affized this name identification over the assigned seat space on my chart. This system worked great, for many times a girl would want to change from soprano to alto, and this simply meant I pulled the name identification off the chart and moved it to the new area. I also seated them as they would sing so if a tall girl replaced a short one, it was easy to move students.

I had two students share music, and the music was kept in big envelopes. These were numbered in both print and Braille so I could put them away and whatever by myself. I had a copy of each piece of music in Braille and had transcribed it all myself. I taught a reader how to read the print music so I could then transcribe it.

During rehearsals, I would sit at the piano on a high stool, play each part with the right hand while I read the music with my left, and conduct with my head. I had a student play for performances, for my playing never won any contests.

Since this was a performing group, singing in long robes, it was my job to teach them how to get on and off the risers from which they sang without tripping.

The robes were stored on a long rack and hung from the shortest to the longest with a print and Braille number so each girl could find her own. This number was also on the seating chart. Many times the group sang off campus in strange environments. Much time was spent convincing them that no matter what happened, good or bad, the show went on. The confidence we teach in the NFB carried over very effectively to these sighted students.

I always remember some time before my first performance the three music teachers, including me, who were involved in that program, had a meeting. We each had twenty minutes (not nineteen or twenty-one, but twenty) on the program, which for me at that time seemed like an eternity. It was to be my turn to instruct the art department as to the decoration for the auditorium and program cover. I was then very grateful that I had studied art and knew enough about design that I could do the job without worry. The evening of the program the only things that made me appear different from the other teachers were my long white cane, which lay at my feet while conducting, and the Braille music on my stand.

Can the blind teach in the performing arts? You bet! I did it for a number of years and so can you.

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