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Giving and Receiving

Jazz pianist discusses her experiences in performing for and with visually-impaired students

People mistakenly think that I teach the blind, but I’m not a teacher and I don’t have any family members or close friends without sight. I just felt called to start working with the visually impaired, and since then people have been calling me.

I like to give what I would have enjoyed receiving. For me, growing up in a sleepy Southern California town, a visit from a “professional musician” would have been really exciting. So about a dozen years ago I began volunteering at a local university’s Arts Reach program, where they bussed in local and inner-city children to experience music, dance and theatre. I also visited nearby Camp Bloomfield, run by the Junior Blind of America, and offered to play the piano for them. That was my first time around children who are blind, and it really touched me. Many had multiple handicaps, yet everyone at camp fished, created art and slept in cabins like kids at any camp. The following year I talked Kawai into loaning the camp a piano, and played again. When I then asked the Arts Reach program to invite the visually impaired children to one of their music programs, I was told it would be a “liability” for the university, something I completely disagreed with.

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