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Visually impaired musicians’ insights: narratives of childhood, lifelong learning and musical participation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2014

David Baker*
Affiliation:
Institute of Education, University of London, UKdavid.baker@ioe.ac.uk

Abstract

With the support of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the life histories of five visually impaired (VI) musicians were collected and analysed between November 2011 and August 2012. This research was conducted as a pilot for a two-year, national investigation of VI musical participation, ‘Visually-impaired musicians’ lives’ (VIML) funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, 2013–2015), which has brought together the Institute of Education, University of London, the RNIB and the Royal Academy of Music, London as project partners. In this instance, life histories were co-constructed narratives – foci were the self-identities of this unique group and ‘insider’ perspectives on education, musical participation and society. Analytic induction of the biographies revealed that a perceived barrier to lifelong learning was having the ability to read notation, either adapted print or in Braille format, and the access to educators who had expertise to teach musicians with visual impairments. The respondents commented on the great value of ensemble participation and adopting teaching roles too. With widespread lore in society about the exceptional musical abilities of those with visual impairment, longstanding traditions of blind musicianship, plus evidence of distinct neural development and hearing, they acknowledged the cachet associated with blind musicians but, regardless, wished to be considered musicians first and foremost. The findings raise questions about social and music educational inclusion.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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