Music for Life?
Is it possible to be a musician if you are blind or vision impaired?
Of course. There are obviously additional challenges to being a blind musician. But you only have to look at the success of musicians such as Andrea Bocelli, Denise Leigh and Stevie Wonder to see that vision impairment is no barrier to success. To quote Stevie Wonder’s famous song, Sir Duke, “music is a world within itself with a language we all understand” and I can say with confidence that this applies to everyone.
What are the challenges in being a blind musician?
Here are my top three challenges:
- Learning your part. Reading music, though possible, is a challenge, particularly in a concert setting.
- Knowing when the piece is starting. Sighted people can see a conductor or communicate with fellow musicians with eye contact.
- Understanding key concepts. For example, how do you know what a a string section is and all that involves if you have never seen one?
How are these challenges overcome?
It really depends on the amount of vision the person has. As a rule, the blind and vision impaired generally learn by ear and rely on their memories. Knowing when the piece is beginning often involves taking one’s lead from others or communicating verbally with fellow musicians. In some cases, it can pay to give blind or vision impaired musicians, depending on their instrument, the lead role in starting and ending pieces of music. As for understanding concepts, touch and hearing are the crucial senses although having a music teacher who is good with adjectives helps too!
Can vision impairment be a positive?
Yes! Whisper it quietly but we often have a much greater awareness of the various parts in a piece, simply because we have to.