The inspiration for this symposium was the visit to Boston by pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. Although blind from birth, he achieved what few sighted pianists have: at the age of 19, he won the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Now 26, he has a very busy and successful concert career around the world and in his home country of Japan.
Longwood Symphony was fortunate to be able to host Nobu Tsujii between a West Coast and European tour. Rather than simply performing a concert with him, we designed a residency that demonstrated the balance that makes LSO unique, between music, healing and service, as well as education - including a conference, performance, and site visit to a school for children with autism.
The Sound Vision symposium that started the weekend was a collaboration between Berklee College of Music and Longwood Symphony. Here a few insights, observations that I gleaned from the day:
Music is connective tissue - Lisa Martino
- At the Perkins School for the Blind, music is used extensively. Lisa Martino, music therapist for the lower school, observed that, while sighted preschoolers learn social behavior and collaboration through activities such as circle time, visually impaired children may have a more difficult time learning that concept. The opportunity to play musical games and taking turns musically is a way to help them learn socialization skills.
- Music is a shared experience, an auditory experience of belonging
- Music teaches team building and collaboration - her example was that of four blind adolescent boys working together to create the verses to a song that they jointly performed. This is true for sighted kids as well!
Teaching All Learners - Panel discussion by faculty discussing education of the blind or visually impaired college student at Berklee, moderated by Anita Walker
- Visually impaired students learn Assistive Music Technology to help them with their work, but otherwise their requirements of harmony, theory, composition is the same as their sighted classmates
- Teaching VI students was found to be rewarding and educational to the teachers themselves, causing them to recalibrate the way they taught: "I was forced to learn things anew." I had to deal with my own teaching limitations and find new and different ways to teach"
- One teacher observed: You become more aware of your surroundings when putting yourself in the shoes of a visually impaired student.
- Playing music, for example in orchestra, is so much more than playing what's on the page. It's not just the SOUND but the PHYSICALITY of music that one becomes aware of. There is the motion of music in the air, and breathing that one becomes much more aware of.
- Visually impaired and sighted music students are all born with a certain level of aptitude. But sighted or not, that must be cultivated, and the 10,000 hours of time must be invested in the art.
- Sometimes there are small changes that one can make in teaching, such as using a smell or sound metaphor, rather than visual concept.
- Sing a musical line so visually impaired students can hear it
- Often new teaching modalities intended for students with special needs turn out to be better for all students. There are some sighted students who are not visually oriented.
Perhaps the day was best summarized by Barbara Lafitte a woodwind teacher at Berklee that in the end:
"Passion overrides our hurdles."
Here's the full program of the remarkable day, after welcomes by Darla Hanley, Dean Professional Education, Suzanne Hanser, Chair of Music Therapy, and me:
Musical Performance: Perkins School Chamber Singers
Music Therapy at Perkins School for the Blind Lisa Martino, MT-BC
Panel Discussion: Teaching All Learners
Moderated by Anita Walker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Cultural Council
Berklee College of Music Faculty Speakers
Peggy Codding, Music Therapy
Arnold Friedman, Composition
Rick Kress, Harmony
Barbara Lafitte, Woodwind
Musical Performance by Takeru Saito and Shun Kumagai, student musicians from Fukushima
Musical Welcome back Suzanne Hanser
Assistive Music Technology Chi Ki, Asst Prof. Music Therapy
Musical Performance Wayne Pearcy and Rocco Fiorentino
Film viewing: Excerpts from Touching the Sound: The Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii
Musical Performance Nobuyuki Tsujii