A lifelong lover of music, Madeleine M. plays the piano and violin. And she is blind and reads music in braille. When Maddy’s parents discovered their bright five-year-old daughter had perfect pitch, they provided piano lessons. Four years later, Maddy herself started the violin, because she wanted to participate in her school’s string orchestra.
“I always grew up with classical music,” says Maddy. “Though it isn’t my favorite genre to listen to, I liked playing it on piano and, later, the violin.” To her, classical music has “much more nuance and subtlety than the average adaptation of a pop song for the same instruments.”
In addition to talent and determination, assistive technology in the form of a screen reader named JAWS. The software “translates” computer text and graphics to an output device, either as text to speech or a special braille keyboard. That’s where Sally Haggerty, Assistive Technology Specialist at Advancing Opportunities, comes in. “Sally helped me stabilize my assistive technology situation at school and solve any problems that might arise,” says Maddy. This, she adds, “helped reduce the stress I felt when attending school and working online with my sighted peers.”
“As well as play the piano and violin,” continues Maddy, “I study music production and use JAWS on a Windows PC to make music. I hope to become a music production artist in the future, so this is super important for me.” And just a few months ago, Maddy started playing the guitar, “to help me write songs.” Adds Maddy, “I use my iPhone and iPad with voiceover to find tutorials on YouTube and find out how to play the various chords needed for different songs.”
Maddy’s hard work is paying off. This year, she will be playing piano in the upcoming concert. “A Pathway to the Future” at the the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School in New York City. She is sure to find a very appreciative audience!
Earlier this year, we reported on another blind music lover uses JAWS. Val, a native of Colombia, delighted her audience, learning and singing the Star Spangled Banner at her high school. The program helped teach her the lyrics of the National Anthem of her new home country.