WBU-AP(Senior group) Excellent Work
The Experiences Encountered And The Challenges Facing A Blind Person In A Music Career
Dorothy Hamilton (88, Female)
On Saturday afternoon, 15th April 1950, I graduated with the Degree of Bachelor of Music from Melbourne University in Australia, thus becoming the first blind woman in the Southern Hemisphere to graduate with this degree. This was a dream which I had cherished since I was a child.
As a totally blind person, I had wanted to be a music teacher. I wanted to go to the Conservatorium at Melbourne University and graduate with a Bachelor of Music Degree so that I could teach sighted children in a sighted school. This was indeed a great challenge for me but nothing was going to stop me. Having reached this point in my life, I was determined to conquer the next challenge.
I had attended the Royal Victorian Institute, a school for the Blind, and I had received an excellent education in music from the blind teachers there. Braille and Braille music were a high priority and for that I am truly grateful. After graduating, the Superintendent offered me the position of Piano Teacher and I would teach the sighted children of the blind employees. This I did for three years and, during that time, I gained much experience which would hold me in good stead for the years to come.
Now I needed to realise my dream which was to teach sighted children in a sighted school. I knew that the Education Department would never consider my request, and so I decided to approach the Private schools. This I did for another three years and many disappointments followed. On going to an interview, I found that the Headmaster was interested in my application but the Head of Music was quite opposed to it and vice versa. They were possibly thinking that it would be quite impossible for a blind person to teach sighted children; and what would the parents think? Still I continued to apply even though I was continually rejected.
Eventually, toward the end of 1952, a well-known blind musician who had been one of my teachers, George Findlay, approached the Headmistress of the Korowa Anglican Girls' School, telling her that I was looking for a position in a school. Miss Beatrice Guyett showed interest in me and asked for me to come for an interview. On entering her office, she made me feel quite at ease and, before leaving, had offered me a position which entailed teaching piano to all levels in the school as well as taking class music in the Junior School. The position was for six months while the staff member was on leave. This was just what I needed to prove to myself whether or not I could realise my dream.
I felt that not only did I need to succeed for my own personal reasons, but that I owed it to all blind musicians to be successful in this venture so that they may be able to follw in my footsteps with confidence. So I worked incredibly hard to achieve this aim. I taught piano, theory and music perception to students from the beginners to year 12, and I took singing and music appreciation classes throughout the entire Junior School. There were about 30 plus students in each class.
I also played for the music and movement classes as well as for the morning assemblies. Although the students accompanied school assembly on Friday mornings, we did not at that stage have organ players. So at the end of term service at St. James' Church, I had to play the pipe organ. The only group music provided for in the Senior School was singing, twice a week, from a visiting teacher. When she was absent, I had to step in and take the seniors.
After the anticipated six months, I was asked to stay on for the rest of the year in order to continue conducting the singing for speech afternoon, which was soon approaching. My initial six months' employment was extended to five years as the previous music mistress had decided not to continue in her former position. During this time, I established the Junior School Choir and introduced the descant and treble recorder to the girls, and they played the hymns with me at the assemblies each Friday morning.
On my retirement, Miss Guyett came to me and said that she was so pleased with the work I had done in the school that it was only another blind music teacher she wished to employ.
"Can you recommend someone?" she asked me. I recommended my brother who was also totally blind and he was a Music Master at that school for the next nine years.
In 1970 I established my own music teaching practice and I continued for some thirty years. For approximately twenty years, I was privileged to be able to spend one day a week teaching blind children the Braille Music Code. Indeed I was pleased to be able to give back something into the system that had given me so much.
My present employment is transcribing music into Braille and this I have been doing for over thirty years. My greatest desire now is to pass this wonderful medium of Braille Music on to the younger generation.
This brings me to the most important feature of my work. Braille! If it were not for the fact that Louis Braille had invented the Braille System and the Braille Music Code, I would never have been able to fulfil my dream. It was Braille that has enabled me to teach and to achieve my dream - it is for this that I am truly indebted to Louis Braille.