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Visually-impaired musicians' lives: Trajectories of musical practice, participation and learning
£182,717, Arts and Humanities Research Council The term "visually impaired" denotes people who are blind or have conditions resulting in various degrees of partial sightedness. Among these people, there are amateur and professional instrumentalists and singers, composers and music teachers, to name a few, who experience music uniquely across their lives and approach music-making in distinct and fascinating ways. "Visually-impaired musicians' lives" (VIML) is a two-year research project at the Institute of Education, University of London funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is investigating the experiences of this important socio-musical group. This is taking place within the university's International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc) with the support of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Royal Academy of Music (RAM), London. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), there are 2 million sight-impaired people in the UK (equating to one person in 30) and, with the ageing population, it is anticipated that this number will increase. Currently, approximately 700 visually-impaired (VI) adults are known by the RNIB to be professional or amateur musicians, and music-making has long been recognised as a viable and potentially life-enhancing activity for VI people. Yet there has been little or no research on their musical practices, participation and learning experiences. Our primary research question is: What are the experiences of VI musicians across the life course in relation to: i.their learning practices, both as children and into adult life, including how, for example a blind musician prepares for a concert; ii.their involvement with different musical styles, instruments, practices and roles; iii.their acceptance or marginalisation within professional, amateur and educational musical communities; iv.opportunities and barriers they perceive in relation to personal development and participation throughout the life-course, and their adaptive strategies to benefiting from, or overcoming these. Our secondary questions are: i.What are the implications of the findings for the musical community, including employers of musicians such as orchestras, and educational providers such as conservatoires and schools, for meeting the needs of VI musicians? ii.How do the findings contribute to the continuing debate about the benefits of lifelong musical engagement, particularly in relation to the projected increase in age of the population, and the likelihood of gradual sight-loss in musicians of older age? iii.What can be learned from VI musicians' lives to increase inclusion, including maintaining the participation of those dealing with the deterioration of sight?
1 Researchers
  • IOE - Culture, Communication & Media
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