Special Prize (for Elementary and Junior High School Students) (Japan)
Toward My Dream
Rika Sugata (12, 6th grade, Elementary School Division, Wakayama Prefectural School for the Blind, female)

I am taking piano and violin lessons. Until the third grade of elementary school, I studied music using the information I got from my ears. My piano teacher recorded an etude by the hand, or the right hand part and left hand part, while speaking the finger numbers so that I could better understand the music. I can’t see other students performing the piano. So the teacher taught me how to walk on the stage, how to bow, and what is the right posture or facial expression when I play the piano very much in detail. When I couldn't get the feeling of the movement of the wrist or elbow necessary for performance, the teacher put my hand on the hand or body of the teacher playing the piano. I came to love piano very much because of her.

But the more difficult etudes became, the harder it became for me to reproduce the music only with the information from the ears. I wanted to study music more. So I decided to learn musical score in braille, but it wasn't easy at all to learn braille music notation because I couldn't find people who can teach me the score. While I was looking for a braille music teacher, I met a visually impaired girl of my own age. She was also taking piano lessons just like me. She became an encouraging friend for me because I didn't have visually impaired friends of the same age.

I finally found braille score teachers; they were teachers of the schools for the blind that have the music departments in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. We met each other for the first time, but they were very enthusiastic about teaching me braille music notation. I was so happy and felt grateful for them.

I found it very difficult to read braille music notation at first; it was like deciphering an enigma. But gradually I came to read it. The basic notation including musical notes is the same for piano and violin score. But there are many other notes unique to each other, including notes to show up or down bow movements for the violin and notes to show use of the right or left hand or pedal for the piano. Even still now I come across notes I don't know. It is surely hard to learn music notation of both instruments, but when I successfully read the notation and played according to it, I feel so happy.

This is how I practice the piano. First I read the score with my left hand and then play the piano with my right hand. Then read the score with the right hand and play with the left hand. Finally I play the piano using both hands together. At first, I read the score by the bar and played. Now I can memorize up to four bars and play. It is very difficult to memorize the whole score and play to the end. When I completed practicing for one piece, teachers listen to my performance. At first I often made mistakes in the finger numbers or sound, and the teachers pointed them out. Gradually my mistakes decreased in number. Braille musical notation I use is the score translated into braille notation by volunteers. I never met them, but they spent months to translate them for me. I intend to meet them in person and say thank you someday. Now that I mastered braille score and read detailed notes, music in me has very much expanded.

I have studied music until now, and it is thanks to many teachers and volunteers. I met many people through music, and some of them have become my true friends. And now I have a dream. I want to be a music teacher in the future. I want to be a teacher like the teachers who taught me music despite my disability. I will not forget this feeling of thankfulness to music and intend to continue studying music so that I can make my dream come true.


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