The blind string player: Stepping out of the shadows

Myra Ross - home with violin

Myra Ross writes about her experience as a blind string player

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I am a blind violinist and violist. Even before I started to lose the limited vision I had in my late teens, I could not read music while I was playing it. I learnt it aurally. I knew what notes I was hearing and could play them automatically with an intuitive sense for good fingerings. Through high school as a violinist, I was lucky to share a stand with someone whose strong playing helped me learn my part. I was able to see music only from very close range: sometimes I’d hold my instrument in my lap like a guitar with my nose in the music and pluck the notes into my memory. That is how I learnt the viola music for the New York All-State Orchestra, but learning that way is slow compared with doing it via listening. Unfortunately, I was never motivated to use the method to learn studies that would have improved my technical skills! During my degree at the University of Rochester (Eastman School of Music), I majored in singing, not violin or viola, although I did have violin lessons. By then, I was no longer able to read with my instrument in my lap, but I was already good at learning through listening…

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