Our two-day conference took place on 10–11 March 2015. It was held in the Jeffery Hall at the UCL Institute of Education, London, UK. Please refer to the conference programme for further details.
We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to all of the delegates, presenters and performers who attended the 2015 "Visually-impaired musicians’ lives" conference. It was touching that so many superb musicians, academics, representatives of charities and people from various other organisations came together for the two days, sometimes with the added complications of, for instance, air travel with guide dogs.
The presentations were all excellent representing various themes, including accessible music technologies, research projects, score media, performing, employment and networking, and schooling (with representatives from schools in the USA, Estonia and Scotland speaking). Our gratitude also goes to our keynote speaker Chi Kim of the "Music technology lab for the visually impaired" at Berklee College of Music, USA and Lord Colin Low of Dalston CBE of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), UK for his welcome speech; they both framed the field with very great panache. Thanks also go to our session chairs, Dr Charlie Ford, Dr Mary Stakelum (Reading University), Clarie Middleton (Hackney Empire), Diana Rugyendo, Dr Maria Vraka and James Risdon (RNIB).
We also had some superb performances, which reflected the high calibre of musical participation within the visually-impaired community (from early music to opera, from world music to pop). Furthermore, we were honoured that Joey Stuckey wrote and dedicated his track "Blind man drivin" to the conference performing it for us. We have embedded a YouTube of the music video below. Countries represented just by the presentations and performances were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Greece, the Slovak Republic, the UK and the USA.
Following the conference, we have received many wonderful remarks by e-mail. Here are just a few examples:
"I can't imagine how much work it took to pull together so many people who are committed to accessibility for VI musicians but from our point of view it certainly paid off. Sometimes it feels like I work in something of a vacuum so it's especially heartening for me to make contact with other people who are devoted to this field."
"I just wanted to tell you how important what you all just did with the VIML conference is. I don't think you guys realize what you have all done! You brought people from all over the world together to share experiences and ideas and celebrate life with music. It is an accomplishment to be proud of and I for one have returned home inspired and reinvigorated to work even harder to bring forth more opportunities for blind folk less fortunate than myself!"
"Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity afforded to our choir by performing at this event. One of our group has described this as a visit of a lifetime."
"Many, many thanks for hosting the first VIML conference this past week. I arrived back in the US completely energized (although jet-lagged of course) and thinking about next steps for our music school and for the field at large. The networking opportunities and many of the presentations were just outstanding and will contribute greatly to the ongoing progress of the entire community. Gathering together and learning about what is happening globally is absolutely essential and important to making inroads in improving opportunity and development for musicians who are visually impaired."
A great deal of planning went into the conference. We are, therefore, extremely grateful to our advisory panel (Peter Bosher, Jacqueline Clifton MBE, Kevin Kern, Lord Colin Low CBE, Lydia Machell, Dr Anthony Gritten, Julian West, Sally Zimmermann and James Risdon) and also our conference team (including some wonderful administrators, Robert Mitchell, Diana and Amanpreet, our student ambassadors and other helpers, Dr Charlie Ford and Thuy Hoang, our excellent technician Dan Gritzman, and our caterers) who all brought the event to fruition and offered outstanding support across the two days. Of course, there were even more people involved in the background at the UCL Institute (too many to mention here). We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to them all.
Keeping in touch
For anyone interested in keeping in touch following the event, Peter Bosher has kindly created an e-mail group. You can join the group by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe" in the subject field, or by visiting the e-mail group page. Once subscribed, you post to the group using the address email@example.com
Will there be another conference?
Finally, we have been asked when and where the next "Visually-impaired musicians’ lives" conference will be held. Presently, we are exploring funding opportunities to make that happen. It would be wonderful if it could be an annual event. If you enjoyed the two days as much as we did, do let everyone know about them and, if one of your contacts would like to participate in our endeavours, please ask them to reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org). The more support and interest we build together, the better!
Thank you, once again, as the 2015 "Visually-impaired musicians’ lives" conference was an extremely memorable one!
With all good wishes,
David Baker and Lucy Green
“Visually-impaired musicians’ lives” project
Lord Colin Low of Dalston CBE, Vice President, Royal National Institute of Blind People, UK
Project Leader, Music Technology Lab for Visually-Impaired Musicians
Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA
James Aitken and Alison Dalton, Dancing Dots and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, USA
Almut Boehme, International Association of Music Libraries, UK and Republic of Ireland
Peter Bosher, Soundlinks Ltd., UK
James Bowden, UK
Paula and Fabiana Chávez, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Janelle Colquhoun, Salubrious Productions, Queensland, Australia
Drs Leslie Jones and Dalia Sakas, Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School, Lighthouse Guild, New York, USA
Kadri Kutsar, Tiiu Ernits and Jelena Michaelis, Tartu Emajôe School and Tartu Second School, Estonia
Lydia Machell, Prima Vista Braille Music Services, UK
Louisa Maddison, Royal Blind School, Edinburgh, Scotland
Drs Oussama Metatla, Nick Bryan-Kinns, Tony Stockman, Fiore Martin, Atau Tanaka, Adam Parkinson, Michael Proulx and David Brown, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary University of London, UK
William McCann, Dancing Dots, Pennsylvania, USA
Professor Adam Ockelford, University of Roehampton, UK
Mark Pampel and Paula McDowell, London Symphony Orchestra's Create Orchestra, UK
Gabriele Rossi Rognoni and Erin McHugh, Museum of Historical Instruments, Royal College of Music, London, UK
Kristina Elisabeth Steinbock, Denmark
Joey Stuckey, Shadowsound Studios, Georgia, USA
Fr Theodoros Tsampatzidis, Music School of Thessaloniki, Greece
Matthew Wadsworth, UK
Dr Jeanette Louise Yaryan, Idyllwild Arts Academy, California, USA
Maros Bango (tenor), Slovak Republic
Paula and Fabiana Chávez (piano duo), Argentina
Inner Vision Orchestra, UK
Terry Kelly and Lucas Haneman (guitar and vocals), Canada
MySight Choir, Nottingham, UK
Victoria Oruwari (soprano) and Kevin Satizabal (piano), UK
James Risdon (recorder), UK
Rachel Starritt (piano), UK
Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo), UK
Joey Stuckey (guitar and vocals), USA
Go to the conference programme.
At the end of October 2014, David Baker and Lucy Green presented project findings and discussed the issues surrounding visual impairment and music with students at the Royal Academy of Music. This was facilitated with the kind support of Julian West and the Open Academy. Some of the conservatoire students, then, proceeded to work with children within the visual impairment unit of Edward Wilson Primary School, London. These music conservatoire outreach participants also had specialist training from the Music Advisory Service of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). A musical performance was created in November at the school, led by Neil Valentine, which was based on the BBC's 10 Pieces.
Head of Open Academy: Julian West
Open Academy Administrator and Projects Manager: Cate Dennes
Open Academy combines a series of creative projects which challenge preconceptions of what music conservatoires do.
The Royal Academy of Music mission has always been to provide musical training at the highest level. Open Academy extends this opportunity beyond enrolled Academy students and out into the fullest range of society. Academy students also benefit directly by engaging in innovative creative learning and participation projects, and discovering an application of their skills beyond the traditional concert platform.
Music in Community:
Widening participation initiatives are now part and parcel of the work carried out by all orchestras, opera companies, festivals and concert venues in the UK. In many organisations, it is intrinsic to their very identity, often with principal players and leading artists shaping and guiding the programmes of work. Skills and experience in working in this field are highly valued by employers, alongside playing, singing or composing at the highest level. A young, relatively unknown ensemble who are able to approach a festival with a good biography, an exciting evening programme, and a proposal for an afternoon workshop with the intention of engaging with a wider audience are much more likely to get the gig! Similarly, composers, singers and jazz musicians are finding increasing amounts of their work, and career satisfaction, in engaging with people creatively, away from the concert platform.
All undergraduates are given the opportunity to participate in the Academy's Music in Community projects in their third year, and gain experience in creative leadership. While working on an internship with an experienced leader and partner organisation, students devise and deliver professional education projects whilst receiving training "on the job". Sessions with leading workshop leaders, performers, composers and teachers cover such topics as collaborative composition, improvisation, project planning, performing for new audiences and evaluation. Project partners include Wigmore Hall, Spitalfields Music, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, English Touring Opera, Glyndebourne Opera and Kings Place. Many of our projects draw in the skills of some of the world's most eminent musicians as they visit the Academy, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Ed Gardner, Sir Mark Elder and Yan Pascal Tortelier.
Undergraduates can spend more time exploring the diverse skills needed to become a skilled workshop musician by taking a specialist, hands-on "Advanced Music in Community" option in their fourth year. Postgraduates can explore work in this field as part of their professional portfolio.
"The Music in Community courses at the Academy were a revelation for me. They showed me ways in which I could use my musical abilities to contribute to society...whilst still seeking performing opportunities of the highest standard. I have been made a more versatile and employable musician by these courses. I am really excited about the ways in which I have developed."
Adam Clifford, Percussionist
The Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London