WBU-NAC region(Senior group) Fine Work
“THE DOTTED NOTE”
U.S.A. Lori Miller(35/Female)
As a young child, I was grateful that my parents enrolled me in piano lessons. My mom had high expectations for her blind child so she was a strong advocate for braille, so when it came time for me to learn braille music code it was no surprise that she searched our entire state until she found someone who knew and used braille music. Her quest to locate braille music instruction revealed a blind couple who were musicians and they quickly became good role models to my family. It was necessary to drive an hour each way in order to receive the instruction, but the investment in time, resources, and having blind mentors for both myself and my family was well worth it and provided a strong foundation.
My interest in music scaled to new heights as I continued through school. Reading braille music and playing the piano served as a steppingstone to various musical endeavors. I would read my braille music and memorize pieces and perform in recitals and eventually competed in solo and ensemble contests. When I reached junior high, I wanted to join the band. I played flute and piccolo. I received First Chair honors for most of my Junior High and High School years. I received first place awards in my state's solo and ensemble contests in both instruments. Possessing a desire to be a part of the entire band experience, I joined the marching band and traveled on trips for performances and marches in parades and football games. It was such an awesome feeling to learn the marching fundamentals and to be part of the performances. I credit my knowledge of braille music for making these activities possible.
Upon graduation from High School I elected to pursue my academic future. I packed up my flute and piccolo and ventured into the unlimited opportunities of college. Wanting to balance out my academic endeavors and athletic passion I sought out musical outlets.
When I explored the possibilities of joining the school's pepband I was confronted with skepticism and concerns about my abilities to participate as a blind person. Thanks to the confidence that I had gained from my foundation in braille music and the skills I had gained from supportive parents and blind mentors, and band directors who expected me to achieve high levels in music and other aspects of life while growing up, I chose to make the situation an opportunity to educate the school's staff and students about the abilities of blind people. I wrote articles for campus publications and although I did not join the marching band, I did play with the pepband on occasion. As a result of this experience, I started reaching through listservs to other blind college peers around the United States to exchange information.
Over the years I have encountered several opportunities to educate and advocate for the use and instruction of braille music. I participate in numerous professional and social listservs where people often refer to me to ask questions about blindness and braille. Recognizing the power of braille music, of course, I did not hesitate when another young blind girl's family contacted me to inquire about braille music. I was excited to be able to give back by introducing her to the fundamentals of braille music and when I left the area, I directed them to resources.
I also have a personal goal of adding playing the guitar to my repertoire and I am sure that I will find resources like braille copies of Popular Lead Sheets as a staple in my collection of music to refer to.
Fast forward to the present ... So, when my son was born, I vowed to share with him my passion for music. I soon realized that his natural talents were burgeoning and I enrolled him in Suzuki piano lessons.
As I began the quest to locate a book and listening CD for his studies, a little light bulb came on. A print book would help my son down the road as he is not blind and will learn to read music, but a braille copy of the Suzuki books would serve as a valuable resource to both of us. A braille book would give me access to the information being learned allowing me to be instrumental in his instructions. This value is priceless as parent involvement in Suzuki lessons is crucial. In addition, access to the material in varying formats provides me with some tools giving me the opportunity to demonstrate that as a blind person I am capable of teaching my son, and others as far as that goes.
I am taking advantage of both the hard copy braille book as well as a Web Braille version which were both obtained from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. These free resources permit me to be an integral part in my son's musical pursuits.
I applaud multiple formats as I can use my BrailleSense and easily take the electronic copy to his lessons and write notes in the text that I can refer to at home. It is so nice to be able to interject comments right within the text or highlight material just as sighted patrons do. At times, it is a challenge reading both left and right hand lines, using a single line of refreshable braille cells, so I gladly embrace the hard copy braille book.
I look forward to daily practices when I can proudly sit down with my son and my braille piano book and follow along as he perfects his musical masterpieces.