Frisco ISD music braille

Valerie Linn, left, and Darla Hamilton, right, received certifications in music braille in order to help a student learn to read music. 

Darla Hamilton and Valerie Linn have “cracked the code” in order to help one Frisco ISD student.

Linn, a visual impairment braillist, said she loves that particular metaphor, which she credits to Hamilton, a certified teacher for the visually impaired.

The phrase refers to the two FISD staff members’ recent certification in music braille, a skill they achieved to assist an FISD student with a particular interest in music.

Linn and Hamilton share a student who plays the piano and the guitar. He also began playing the violin last year.

The student, who is blind, was used to learning to play music by ear.

“When someone takes an interest in so many instruments, not just one, you figure this kid’s going to stick with it, and he should probably be taught correctly,” Linn said.

As a result, the two are now certified in music braille through the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).

“We just felt like he may wind up in an orchestra one day, and he can read a score because we helped him,” Linn said. “That made us feel good that we were helping him.”

Hamilton said Mindy Hudson with TSBVI encouraged the two to teach music braille to their student.

“She said if we teach him to read music and not just do it by ear, not just memorize, then he’ll be able to understand any music,” Hamilton said.

In 2019, Linn recalls an introductory class offered at a summer braille bootcamp with the TSBVI.

During the previous year, Hudson helped them, but Hamilton recalls “floundering” through the year, when they didn’t know how to braille music.

Starting in August, Hudson also guided them through multiple workshops, complete with homework. For Hamilton, that’s when the dots started to connect.

“Now it all makes sense,” she said. “Instead of us floundering, we get it. So there’s comprehension now.”

Now, they are able to teach the same skill to their student.

“He seems grateful,” Hamilton said. “He seems to be appreciative that he’s learning the different notes.”

The same dots used to indicate music notes could look like letters or words in braille, Hamilton said, meaning she and Linn had to undergo a relearning process.

To illustrate, Linn reveals a sheet of music notes organized by pitch and rhythm type. Underneath each note are hand-drawn notations of dots and lines that make up Linn’s personal “cheat sheet.”

“There’s no staff in music braille,” she said. “It’s all linear. So he has to see a different symbol to know what octave it is, what timing it is and that sort of thing.”

In truth, the two are still learning, and it’s an ongoing process, Linn said.

While the two went after the certification for one specific student, Linn said they now have the ability to help any student down the road who may want to learn music braille.

“I’m thrilled,” Hamilton said. “I have a special skill now that I can share with any student that needs it anywhere in the world. Anybody who needs to play music braille, I can help.”

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