how the teachers of St. Petersburg teach blind musicians

– Olga Gelievna, tell us how the children got to you?

– It is quite common – children with musical talent and abilities come to our music school, while they have vision problems. I have many talented children, each in his own direction. Another writes music, others play on big stages. At the same time, there are many children who train for themselves, developing themselves and their abilities, perhaps a little more modestly. But this does not mean that for us, the teachers, there is less pleasure, work and pride in their teaching! In addition, when a child is not very good at music and has problems with physical development and we see how it changes in several years of lessons, we are very happy. Improves coordination, the child becomes more confident, more daring, because he has to speak in public. This teaches you to control yourself and tune in to a specific behavior. I think children who study music are more advanced and flexible.

– There is a statement that many blind and visually impaired people are gifted with musical talent, a special ear. Is that really so?

– I have 30 years of experience in teaching visually impaired children and I have read a lot about it. This dissertation has been around for many centuries, various people have told me about it in interviews and conferences. My opinion is that they do not have excessive musical abilities. God gave them what the rest gave. But everyday hearing in blind children is really better developed, because hearing is their eyes. They distinguish a person with the steps, from the rustle of the tires they distinguish the brand, their model. Their hearing is sharpened and differentiated, unlike ours, I noticed this in practice. But in terms of musical abilities: out of our 85 students, only about 10 children, in my opinion, nature particularly noted musical abilities and this can become their profession. The rest have moderate musical ability, while they have no vision. If what you said was true, every blind man would be a brilliant musician.

– What is your teaching method?

– This is a body-oriented technique. If a teacher can sit down and point with his hands at a sighted student, and the student can read it with his eyes and copy to some degree, the process goes easier and faster. A blind person does not know the subtleties of the wrist, nor everything a sighted student can see. They are characterized by tightness and natural rigidity on the piano. We try to take them away from this nature to some extent, we break the idea that one has to be restrained, limited. I put the student’s hand on mine, stand or sit next to him and draw a movement with my hand and give verbal comments. Sometimes a child can take a note from the ear.

– How are things with the notes in Braille?

– There are very few of them, and this is a huge problem, which was even mentioned to the president. In Soviet times, many scores were produced, there were dotted-type publishing houses, and after 1991, when everything became a market economy, it became unprofitable for publishers to take notes in Braille. Only now have they begun to talk about reviving this issue.

The pride of our music lessons lies in the fact that 30 years ago, when we just started working, we set a goal – our students to be no different from the viewers – and they will play the notes. I focus on that, because not in every music school that is taught blindly, they teach by notes – they teach by hand, by ear. It ends with the fact that after school, children do not have the independence of seeing musicians and this is generally an unprofessional approach. Over the years, about 15 of our graduates have become professional musicians. They went mainly to pedagogical activity, work in kindergartens, amateur performances.

– What is the most difficult thing in this teaching method?

– This is a long and arduous job, especially in the first grades, when the children are still young. It takes incredible perseverance – because of this, some people do not want to continue their studies, because they find it insurmountable. Another feature: the notes are similar to the letters, some of them are the same. Nevertheless, Vika knows Braille music very well. If there are not enough notes and I want to give her another work, we dictate. We try to get rid of grief: there is a special program and a printer. And before that there was no such technique, and the children pierced notes with a stylus in their hand – a real stone age! However, they endured all these years and did not give up Braille music.

– How do you see the musical future of Vika?

– I think she will become a serious composer. Vika draws various genres: about a year ago she wrote a piece for violin and piano, which was played at a concert. And now I have conceived a quartet for strings! Vika is very smart not only as a musician, but also as a person.

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