Do You See What I Hear?
Braille Music in the Classroom
By Audrey Carballo
So often music classes are one of the first places exceptional students are scheduled, either as electives in the middle or senior high school settings or as a requirement in most elementary school districts nationwide.
I had been teaching for more than 20 years when I received news of a student who was blind coming into my class. My gut reaction was, “Oh, no! What am I going to do with her? She’s not going to be able to sight read. How is she going to learn the music?” I envisioned the stereotypical blind person, tapping her cane as she walked through the halls of my middle school. I conjured up thoughts of her rocking like Stevie Wonder or moving side to side like Ray Charles. What did I know? I didn’t even have time to find her Vision teacher before she was plopped into my class.
What I did figure out very quickly was that she was just like every other student I taught—only she couldn’t see.
A New Way to Teach
While that took sight-singing off the table, my new student participated in everything else we did in the classroom. Ear-training, rhythmic dictation, and learning her part was just the daily routine for her. I was able to either play her part or sing it for her so she could record it. Remember—this was pre-iPhone. Back then, cell phones were the size of bricks, and they didn’t come with any type of recording app!
My biggest regret was that I didn’t know about braille music. Our district didn’t offer it to her as a resource, and no one had developed any substantive online course either. This was during the early part of the 21st century. Only the larger music colleges and universities offered it, and it wasn’t accessible to either me or my student.
So, I cut out the shapes of the notes and other symbols (rest, breath mark, staff, treble clef, etc.) for her to feel. She had a much better understanding when I spoke about music during class, having been exposed to those resources, than she was before she joined us. When she was in elementary school, all her teacher did was have her sing. What an incredible waste of talent!
Braille Music, an Invaluable Resource
A twist on the lyrics from the song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne lent themselves perfectly to the purpose of my presentation at the 2015 NAfME National In-Service Conference titled: “Braille Music Is for Everyone!” I co-authored the online course currently being offered by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The course is designed for both visually impaired and sighted students with a minimal knowledge of Braille.
In our presentation, we demonstrated the very basics of braille and how braille music is written. You can take a look at our PowerPoint presentation linked below. We had a lot of rave reviews on our presentation. We hope you enjoy it as well.
View Audrey Carballo and Jin Ho Choi’s presentation from the 2015 NAfME Inservice Conference:
Look for my next blog entry in February. If you have any specific topics you’d like me to cover or discuss, email me at email@example.com, and I’d be happy to talk about them. Happy New Year to everyone!
Audrey Carballo and Jin Ho Choi presented a session on “Braille Music Is for Everyone” at the 2015 National In-Service Conference. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference.
About the author:
This past fall, Audrey Carballo, a 34-year NAfME member, began her 34th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.
She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.
One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”
Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course.
Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.