The Lighthouse Guild Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School’s Accessible Music Technology Lab uses the latest technology to give students the capability to access, research and produce Braille and regular- or large-print music as well as several audio formats for music.
Dalia Sakas, DMA, Director of Music Studies, notes that advanced technology now is a “very important part of our music school.” Recent innovations have made an important difference in accessibility for students with vision loss. The Accessible Music Technology Lab provides access to alternative forms of music notation, audio recording and editing, and MIDI sequencing. One of the most significant developments is the ability for a person who is visually impaired to create a musical score in print for use by a sighted colleague.
“When I first started teaching here, the onus was on the sighted person to provide music for anyone with vision loss,” says Dr. Sakas. “Today, our teachers or students can create a musical score in print or in Braille.” There are still shortcomings: 1) scanning music still lags behind scanning print; and 2) the majority of music in the public domain is in the PDF format, which is not accessible to individuals with vision loss.
Because of the Accessible Music Tech Lab, an additional development is the ability of the team to provide music in all of its different formats quickly, enabling innovative and exciting musical programming. In the past, students were restricted to whatever music was available, and concert programming was therefore limited. “All of this is now entirely different, and we are seeing greater creativity from our students as a result of access to more and varied types of music.
“We currently have five complete music production workstations,” Dr. Sakas adds, four of which are Windows-based and one which uses an Apple Mac that uses the music notation program Finale. “The four Windows-based stations consist of an all-in-one computer, piano keyboard, refreshable Braille display and scanner, and all are outfitted with the Dancing Dots software suite,” including the GoodFeel, Lime, LimeAloud and SharpEye programs—producing Braille, regular- and large-print music. The Lab also has a Juliet embosser from the Humanware Company, that produces an embossed Braille version of the music. In addition, the Lab has a device named the “LimeLighter,” that gives students access to large-print music.
Audio and MIDI recording and editing are taught using programs such as SONAR, with the specifically crafted CakeTalking scripts that work together with the JAWS speech screen access program. Other programs, such as ProTools, Garage Band and Logic are also taught using the speech program from Mac computers, VoiceOver. The music students working in the Accessible Music Technology Lab can create CDs or MP3s for audio listening devices. “We have three studios that house four Digital Audio Workstations,” Dr. Sakas explained. “Three are Windows-based and one is on a Mac platform.”
There is also an extensive lending library containing over 25,000 scores in Braille or large print. The Accessible Music Technology Lab serves as a unique international role model. As William McCann, founder and president of Dancing Dots, often states, “The Music School of Lighthouse Guild is the place for music education and accessible music technology—where ‘the rubber hits the road.”