Future Reflections        Summer 2012

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New Hadley Course Gives A Voice to Braille Music

by Kate Streit

From the Editor: The Braille music code has been with us for nearly two centuries. Louis Braille invented the code and taught it to his students at the Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. Nevertheless, few teachers and transcribers are skilled in the use of Braille music today, and too many blind students are taught music only through listening and memorization. The Hadley School for the Blind is attempting to bridge this gap with a useful new course.

For music students and performers who are blind, learning to read Braille music is essential. Sighted teachers, too, may want to learn about teaching Braille music or may seek ways to support a student who is learning the Braille music code. Braille transcribers may wish to add knowledge of the music code to their set of skills. A new course from the Hadley School for the Blind, "Braille Music Basics," attempts to meet these needs by offering an introduction to the fundamentals of Braille music.

The prerequisite for this five-lesson course is Hadley's "Braille Music Diagnostic." This preliminary course assesses the student's ability to read print music and visually to read and produce uncontracted Braille. "Braille Music Basics" includes five lessons. Lessons 1 and 2 provide some of the basic symbols used in Braille music for any performance medium. These lessons concentrate on music for single-melody instruments such as the clarinet or violin. Lesson 3 explains Braille music for voice with melodic and choral accompaniment. Lesson 4 presents Braille music for keyboard instruments. Lesson 5 addresses some questions about teaching and transcribing Braille music.

The information in this introductory course does not enable students to transcribe print music, teach music, or teach Braille professionally. However, after completing the course, students enthusiastically can support and encourage a blind student who is learning to read Braille music independently.

"Learning the basics of Braille music is a great opportunity for music teachers working with students who are blind," says instructor Linn Sorge. "Reading music should begin for a student who is blind just as it does for one who is sighted. Reading Braille music can open many doors toward self-confidence and further independence. This course gives music teachers and parents enough understanding of Braille music that they can encourage a Braille reader to begin reading music he or she wants to play."

Written by musician and Braille music transcriber Ruth Rosen, the course is offered tuition free to students in Hadley's Family Education Program and tuition free for a limited time to students in the Hadley School for Professional Studies. The course is available online or by mail in large print. The development of the course was partially funded by a generous grant from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Hadley School is also developing a version of the course for blind and visually impaired individuals who want to learn and play Braille music, "Braille Music Reading." After completing this course, students will be able to read single-line music. The course will be available to students in Hadley's Adult Continuing Education (ACE) and High School (HS) programs. These programs are open to blind and visually impaired individuals age fourteen and over. All courses in these programs are tuition free.

For more information or to enroll, please visit our website at <www.hadley.edu> or contact Student Services at (800) 526-9909.

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