VIML Institute of Education Conference 10-11 March 2015
Our two-day conference will take place on 10–11 March 2015. It will be held in the Jeffery Hall at the Institute of Education, University of London.
The conference will bring together visually-impaired performers, music teachers (sighted and visually-impaired), researchers concerned with visual impairment and music, representatives from the music industry and organizations in this arena. It will address key issues surrounding the musical participation and learning of visually-impaired people, including: music education and lifelong learning; participation choices and approaches to music; the relationship between musical approaches, musical genre and sight; and how technologies are shaping the music-making of visually-impaired people. These will be explored through presentations and performances.
This report has been commissioned by Baluji Shrivastav for the Arts Council of England.
It has been written on the basis of participant observation, survey responses and informal interviews, and focuses upon the experience of stakeholders in different aspects of the Inner Vision Orchestra tour – to consider how their interests were met and how these might be further promoted in future activities. It reflects on the significance for the future planning of the Inner Vision Orchestra and, more generally, on the requirements of blind and partially-sighted performers taking part in such a tour, and the practicalities involved in its organisation.
Linda Shanson asks why there aren’t any blind musicians at the top of the music industry, especially in the UK
What are the factors that are impeding the progress of these talented children in a field where they should excel as adults? This is the question that blind musician Baluji Shrivastav investigated when he established Inner Vision Music Company. Shrivastav was born in India, which a blind population of at least 16 million in a country with no national health service and very basic welfare provision. Although the quality of life in the UK is incomparable to that which he experienced in India as a blind person, he found there are still many barriers to overcome. Consequently Inner Vision Music Company commissioned a report called ‘Blind to the Facts’, an exploration of the needs of blind and visually impaired musicians in the UK, which was supported by The Platinum Trust and RNIB. As a result, several recommendations were made for initiatives which could support blind and visually impaired musicians.
One of these was “to organise concerts which will give visually impaired musicians the chance to play in public and to earn money”. This is the inspiration behind the Inner Vision Orchestra, a collection of musicians from different genres. Some of them are professional and some community based, and there is an emerging youth section. The idea is to focus attention on the achievements of visually impaired musicians and to create a working environment which is supportive to their needs. Inner Vision Orchestra can serve as a platform and attract more opportunities for employment.
In January, Baluji Music Foundation put on an Inner Vision concert with the support of the British Council, as part of the British Council’s UK-India Connecting Cultures initiative. The project took place over 10 days and involved 12 totally blind musicians from Kanpur. Baluji encouraged them to develop the programme themselves and also to speak out for themselves – which they did at a press conference at Kanpur Press Club. It was the first time such an event has taken place, where blind musicians in India have designed and delivered the event with minimum involvement from sighted people. Two musicians were immediately offered more work as a result of the exposure. Clips of the project are on YouTube under Baluji Music Foundation and British Council.
Blind and visually impaired musicians need opportunities to perform at well-publicised events, so that young talent can be nurtured into viable careers. If blind musicians were engaged in the infrastructure of the music industry it would create more roles for them to contribute their abilities.