Music and Disability

Music has always been a large part of my life.  I took piano lessons for 9 years and played the violin in orchestra for 5 years.  If I could go back with the knowledge I have now and make proper accommodations, I would.  It is never too late though.  As soon as I get into a place that I’ll be for awhile, I’m going to get a piano, and take lessons again.  As for the violin, well, I think it might be time to try a different instrument.  I’ve always loved the cello, and the sound that it makes.  I’m also a big fan of Yo-Yo Ma, the world famous cellist, so maybe that will be my next musical adventure.  Who knows.

I didn’t realize at the time how important memorizing the music was in regards to my learning a piece.  My vision slows my sight reading down a lot.  I have to read it, then go back over it to make sure I was playing the right notes.  With orchestra, by the time I do that, the piece is already halfway over.

You don’t really hear as much about adaptive equipment for musicians with disabilities as you do with ones for general tasks.  I went the cheap route and just had my music blown up on a larger sheet of paper  if I didn’t have the opportunity to memorize it.

So, as usual, I put my reference librarian skills to work and dug up some info on adaptive musical equipment for the blind.  There is a national organization that provides resources for blind and visually impaired musicians called the National Resource Center for Blind Musicians.  Music is so technology focused these days that I hope to see more equipment created.

There is a cool new product by Dancing Dots called the Lime Lighter, a computerized system that enlarges notes on a screen, and can be advanced from one measure to the next by pressing a foot pedal.  This is an amazing breakthrough for people who have some sight and don’t read braille.

Of course, most blind and visually impaired musicians have their hearing.  A good ear for music is important.  There are some musicians who can follow along just from what they hear.  I don’t have good hearing, so that option is out.  However, music has also helped my hearing in many ways by soothing tinnitus.  Even with damaged hearing, you can still train your ear to be more attuned to the different sounds that come together in a piece.

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