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Singers with disabilities: How to help a Blind Singer

Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:01:41 -0600
From: oscar escalada
Subject: Blind Students

Dear Fellows,
Here are the answers to my request regarding blind students. Thanks to Matt
Lyles, Paul Meers, Thomas W. Gear, Michael Lindemann, Lon Prosser, Maryann
Lisk and Ben Allaway for their interest.
I'm a sophomore majoring in organ and Theology. As a blind student, I try to
be as independent as possible. So encourage her to do what she can by
erself--in other words, be careful not to help too much. For written work,
I dictated chord progressions and worked closely with one other Theory
student, paid by the school, who took down my answers. In this way, I held
an A average throughout the first two sections of Theory and also this
third. If I can be any help on specific issues, please feel free to ask.
We blind have to be flexible, and we
realize our presence present problems for faculty. I'm sure she appreciates
your kind concern and attention, but as I've said, don't help too much. I
hope she's had a background in keyboard and so knows something of harmony.

Yours truly,

Matt Lyles
Does she/ he have partial sight? If so, a lighted magnifying machine can
help with note-reading. Are there braille materials available?

Try to make the most of the other senses, which sometimes are
strengthened if one sense is handicapped.

All the best,

Paul Meers
Director of Choral Activities
Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne
219-481-6721 (IPFW)
219-456-3873 (home)
I would concentrate on harmony at the keyboard as much as possible.
Provide her with a concrete sensation of whatever it is that you are

I do not know of any method books on teaching the blind, but I do know some
excellent blind pianists.

Thomas W. Gear vox: (816)886-2244
Marshall High School fax:(816)886-2669
Marshall,Missouri tgear(a)
How extensive are the keyboard skills of this student?
Can she read Braille?
Do you have access to a computer with music writing software?
Do you have a MIDI Keyboard?
If so what kind of hardware do you have? IBM clone? MacIntosh? Printer?

I would like to discuss more characteristics of your situation. We have
just added a new telecommunications lab on our campus complete with
videoconferencing and, a Braille printer. I don't know if it can be done
yet but there might be a way to convert compositions originating from a
MIDI keyboard and printed through the Braille printer. Anyway, it is
worth investigating.
Send reply to:

Prof. Michael Lindemann
Central Methodist College
411 CMC Square
Fayette, MO 65248-1988,USA
e-mail, mlindema(a)
My brother is blind and going to be purchasing computer hardware and
software designed to read the screens aloud. This type of setup would
enable your student to use music training software. Two of the leading
screen readers are JAWS for dos or Windows (by Henter-Joyce) and IBM's
Screen Reader 2.

If these sound like they might be helpful to you and you would like more
information about them, I'll be glad to send it.

Lon Prosser.
Sorry to have taken so long to find this, but I would like to suggest
a Canadian contact at the Canafian National Insitute for the Blind's
Music Library. Her name is Christina Lockerbie, and her e-mail
address is : lockerc(a)

In the meantime, I will forward your ChoralNet message to her in the
event she may wish to contact you directly.

Maryann Lisk
I have a very fine singer in my professional choir who is blind and has a
very good system for transcribing her music into braille. She may have other
info about other kinds of materials or programs. She is always at home (has
a new baby, so don't call too early or late) and would be hsappy to help, I'm
sure, though I haven't spoken with her about this. Her name is Susie
Stageberg, 515-265-2761. Good luck, and hang in there with your student. If
she is talented she deserves a chance to make it. Bless you for trying to

Ben Allaway
Des Moines, Iowa


Prof. Oscar Escalada
Vice-Presidente de la Asociacion Argentina para la Musica Coral
"America Cantat" (AAMCANT)

Thanks so much for your suggestions. They will be a big help!

Original Post:
Hello list,
I am a first year teacher taking on General Music and Chorus at the
Middle School level. I have an 80-member 7th/8th grade chorus. There
are several issues I'm working through with them including management,
undoing bad habits, finding good rep, etc. A big issue for me in this
class is that I have one visually impaired student and one blind
student. The blind student is all alone all day (her own separate classroom) except for Chorus class. This is her chance to really shine. She has
the potential for a great voice and she LOVES to sing. I just don't
know how to properly engage her in class. If I had private lessons with
her I could do tons...but I only have 45 minutes every other day (during
which time I'm dealing with 79 other kids). I like to do a lot of
music reading and things on the board. I don't want her to feel left out.
She does not have an aide that stays with her in chorus class. Do any
of you have any experience with something like this? Please respond
privately and I will post a compilation.

- Allow her to bring a tape recorder to record sectionals/rehearsals.

- Do not do anything special! - believe in her ! she will manage! speak with her, ask her what she would like you to help in, speak to the choir ( when she is not there ) - but only once about the wonderful opportunity which we all have to give & help and also - get, with a blind person close to us.

- One thing that can been done is to get some puffy paint and create a "book" of the music for her. This way she can tell where the staves are, notes, etc. Make it big so she can feel it easily

- Buddy System. Seat VI/Blind students with a buddy they can trust. Buddies can help show students where diaphragm is, explain what is being read from the board, help move in movement activities, help with music theory (turn your left hand with palm facing youyour pinky is the bottom line of the staff, your thumb is the top line). Buddies can also transcribe answers on theory quizzes.

- Look for a device designed to assist blind students. (Monocular, Magnifier, or something more technologically impressive).

- There is a machine that enlarges the print so it can be more easily read. Most states will provide this through their Vocational Rehabilitation department. There is braille music available, and blind music students should learn to read it. Most states have libraries for the blind which can provide materials. Massachusetts Commission for the Blind ( and National Federation for the Blind (

- Make a recording of the music that the class is to do, and get it to your VI/Bline students about a week before you introduce the music to the rest of the class.

- There is/was a kit that consisted of a large cork board and several pieces shaped like various notes of different values, bass and treble clefs, lines, etc., made of metal and with tacks on the back so they could be stuck into the cork. You can't put together an entire score like this, but it at least gives the student an idea of what musical notation looks like and how it's read. I have no idea how you would find such a thing; no one ever told me where this mysterious thing came from when I was learning to use it at the age of seven or eight, but I will look around for it and I would start with the American Printing House for the Blind at

- She can also get a book that will help her learn Braille music through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Music Section at or from National Braille Press at The book is called How to Read Braille Music by Bette Krolick.

- If you're displaying something on an overhead projector/whiteboard, read (and/or sing) it aloud.

- Count aloud the measure before the singers enter. For slowing or speeding the tempo, she must learn to listen to the other singers for cues, especially if you tend to adjust things during performance. But the first couple of times through a new piece, after the notes have begun to settle in, you could make your tempo changes audible (e.g., beating the time on the podium with your baton). After the first couple of times, she'll be expected to be alert at those points in the work being performed.

- Meet at least once with students alone and ask what they will want help in. Check in periodically.

- There's a ChoralNet resource on this topic: > Rehearsal > Specialized Techniques > Disabilities >
Blind singer

- Have a Finale- or Sibelius-Savvyalso had a computer savvy student produce a computer rendition of her part. Make into a CD, with each rehearsal letter/section on a different track, so she can memorize segments.

-Look for a college student in the area who may want some extra cash. They can tutor the student in theory or just be a practice buddy. (A music student is preferable).

-Place the student close
to the piano so they can feel the vibrations.

-Have "buddies" hold their hands during performances so she can feel breath and movement before she sings. She has no other way to do entrances and cut-offs other than through tactile approaches.

Thanks again!

Meredith Smith smithmerediths(a)

Annie Sullivan Middle School Franklin, MA

Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Mail Address AutoComplete - You start. We finish.
on April 28, 2004 10:00pm
Hey,... i'm blind in one eye and i'm friends with people who are blind and are excellent singers usally if you loses one senese another one takes over .. treat them like a normal sigted person .. they will pick up on the music easily i think if ur blind and in to music like we are it comes natural .. and there are things out there that wuill turn music into brialle so that he/she can read it