2001 Conference Proceedings

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New Curriculum for Teaching Braille Music a New Approach for the mainstream Educator

Richard Taesch
Author and Music Educator
Southern California Conservatory of Music

William R. McCann
Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology, L.P.
PO Box 927
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0927
Tel: 610-783-6692
FAX: 610-783-6732
Email: info@dancingdots.com 
WWW: www.dancingdots.com

AN INTRODUCTION TO MUSIC FOR THE BLIND STUDENT, A Course in Braille Music reading - Part I is a new, flexible curriculum equips the mainstream educator with no prior experience with braille to teach and learn music braille. The author, Richard Taesch, is a life-long music educator and guitarist who is certified by the Library of Congress as a braille music transcriber. He heads the Braille Music Division of the Southern California Conservatory of Music and chairs the guitar department.

Braille music reading has traditionally been taught as a translation process from print music as the sighted musician views it. This course differs from the norm in that it is a true instructional course-curriculum in music fundamentals, music reading, sight singing, theory, and ear-training using the unified Braille Music Code as the medium. Print music is considered secondary, and included for the convenience of the sighted teacher or tutor.

It is, therefore, possible for a sighted (or blind) musician to administer or to study this work without prior knowledge of the braille music code. It is also intended that a sighted teacher, parent, or tutor with little or no knowledge of braille or conventional print music, may guide a blind student through this course. Teacher training is also a natural application for the course. Much testing by correspondence has been conducted, and the course has been the official curriculum at Southern California Conservatory of Music - Braille Music Division for many years.

Content Description

The course is divided into two Parts. Part I (Phases One through Four) is “ground level,” and covers rudiments through intermediate melodic interpretation and key signatures. Part I is written into three separate print volumes— Lessons; Lesson Exercises; Supplemental Exercises. The braille edition exists in 6 braille volumes. All three print volumes are integrated and used simultaneously, however, each may also be used separately depending upon individual application.

The course is intended to teach the essentials of music reading regardless of the student’s chosen instrument. The piano is considered as a basic tool common to all instrumentalists. Separate instrumental Supplements will eventually become part of the course.

First Volume: Lessons

Each Phase concludes with a lesson summary as an outline. This is intended to give experienced music teachers the option of flexibility, while guiding them through critical essentials specific to the braille Music Code. There are eighty-six print pages in this volume.

“Phase One” addresses rudiments of music in five separate lessons. General content covers introductory ear training, and an introduction to solfege (sight singing) by reading braille scale step numbers only. Structural concepts of scales and intervals in the form of Musical Arithmetic is also a part of Phase One.

“Phase Two” introduces true braille music notation and the braille Music Code. Notation covering the first five notes of the C Major Scale is taught in four lessons. Lesson 4 introduces the concept of Melodic Dictation, whereby the blind student is required to write the notes on the braille writer as they are played by the teacher or tutor.

“Phase Three” introduces the braille melody line incorporating such concepts as time signatures, note duration, repeat signs, piano fingerings, notes in the third & fifth octave, accidentals, major and minor scales, and other essentials needed at this level.

“Phase Four” covers key signatures and other musical devices such as ties, phrase marks, use of the braille music hyphen, and composition and formatting techniques.

“Appendix” contains Theory Examinations pertinent to all four Phases, and concludes with a detailed Index of the text.

Second Volume: Lesson Exercises

This volume includes the Lesson Exercises that are assigned in the Lessons text. A “facsimile” of the braille page as the braille reader sees it is shown on the left page with equivalent print music on the right page. Each braille facsimile page includes print fonts that point out each new braille sign as it is introduced in the lessons. The sighted teacher uses these fonts to reference their place on the braille page.

Third Volume: Supplemental Exercises

This volume is composed of graded supplemental material intended to expand exercise opportunities, and serves to illustrate concepts presented in the course. It may be used independently of the rest of the course, however, it functions as an extension of the curriculum as it is written. There are sixty-seven print pages and one braille volume. All exercises have been composed by the author with the exception of a section called “Duets and Classic Themes”.

Some exercises are used for sight singing and playing, others are for singing only or playing only. Duets are common, and right and left hand fingered versions are plentiful. The text concludes with a section of scale exercises for comprehensive note study and review. Each print music exercise is immediately followed by simulated braille print dots.

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