Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Classroom Guitar and Students with Visual Impairments: A Positive Approach to Music Learning and Artistry

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Classroom Guitar and Students with Visual Impairments: A Positive Approach to Music Learning and Artistry

Article excerpt

In 2011, a collaborative effort began between the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and Austin Classical Guitar (ACG), a local 501(c) nonprofit music organization. The idea behind this collaboration was to start a small guitar program that would provide TSBVI students with quality classroom guitar instruction. At that time, ACG was providing guitar instruction to over 40 schools in the Central Texas area. These classes met all the state fine arts requirements and were available for credit hours as music classes during the regular school day. In addition to easing the financial burden of paying for guitar instruction, school districts that collaborated with ACG also received access to quality instruction from experts in the field of music as well as access to their guitar curriculum. The curriculum, which is called (GCC) and is available at a website of the same name, produced positive results for students all over the United States, Europe, South America, and other parts of the world (Marcum & Hinsley, 2004). TSBVI and ACG agreed that the small ensemble of approximately five students with visual impairments and no additional disabilities would receive music instruction for one hour, four days a week, during the 2011-2012 school year. In addition, the instructor and TSBVI students would have access to the ACG classroom guitar curriculum free of charge.


School districts often look to guitar education as an opportunity to teach music to students who are not involved in the more traditional musical ensembles like band, choir, or orchestra. It was on this premise that ACG developed a quality, cost-effective, guitar curriculum that could be accessible to students of all abilities and socioeconomic statuses while also meeting U.S. national and state standards for classroom music curricula. GCC, which was launched in 2004, was designed to provide music educators with no prior guitar training with access to classroom guitar arrangements, video training, and direct consultation from expert music teachers in the field of guitar study and music education. GCC consists of nine levels of musical development. Each level consists of standard and original compositions, audio files of the arrangements, corresponding music theory, and written assignments. GCC is not a special instructional method or curriculum for students with visual impairments, but is, rather, a best practices approach to classroom guitar education.

The 2011-2012 pilot project was a success. Both parties agreed to continue the guitar program, and GCC was selected for further review by TSBVI's music educator. The goal of this paper is to share how TSBVI students achieved the level-one objectives of GCC with minimal accommodations and no curricular modifications in the first semester of the 2012-2013 school year. The level-one objectives were selected for review because they are considered by ACG, the largest classical guitar organization in the United States, to be the foundation on which all future guitar skills are built. Although all students' needs and abilities are different, a quality guitar education requires that all students demonstrate having learned the fundamental theoretical skills (see Table 1) before advancing to a higher level of guitar performance. The following report describes the first four weeks of classroom guitar instruction during the 2012-2013 school year.


Making music from the start

A common mistake made by music teachers, including teachers of visually impaired students, is to bombard novice music students with information about the rudiments of music while ignoring expressiveness, tone quality, and how to convey things to a listener (Duke & Byo, 2011). Observers might hear a teacher giving a mathematical explanation of rhythm or presenting a mnemonic device to memorize all the different pitches: "The lines on the musical staff are E, G, B, D, F, or try to remember Every Good Boy Does Fine. …

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