Oklahoma Camp Teaches Vision-Impaired Kids How To Play Music

Friday, July 25th 2014, 7:17 pm
By: News 9

The local non-profit NewView Oklahoma hosted a week-long summer camp for vision-impaired children. The group, made up of eight to 18-year-olds, has gone fishing, rock climbing and dragon boat rowing in years past. This year, they learned how to play music.

The Nigh University Center at UCO has hosted many performers, and on Friday, a special group took the stage for the very first time.

Listening to the young group of musicians, you'd never guess they started playing instruments three days ago, or that all the violinists are vision impaired.

"It's awesome seeing people, who can't see very well, learning how to play something that you're supposed to see and play," said 11-year-old Brooke Barry, who’s had the inflammatory eye disease, Uveitis, since she was four years old.

“The camp has a good kick to it where it has a whole new level of fun for people who can't see very well,” Barry added.

NewView partnered with the Oklahoma Youth Orchestra to put on their annual Oklahomans Without Limits (OWL) summer camp.

Music composer Jerod Tate admits, early on, teaching a class that could not read music wasn't easy.

“That's the biggest challenge, to teach music by ear, by rote and to explain the music,” Tate, who wrote the piece “Sunrise” for the group, said.

"Because memorization is such a necessity in their lives, you have to memorize where everything is physically, and everything that you learn, you're memorizing very, very quickly, so it was really impressive to teach something, and it stick immediately,” Tate added.

Each child is paired with a volunteer with vision, who helps guide them through each note, beat and rhythm.

“The key is you just have to explain things differently," said 17-year-old Charity Pickup, a camp counselor-in-training. "You just can't give them a sheet of sheet music and say, 'Ok, here learn this.'"

Pickup would know since she only has vision in her left eye but has been playing music by ear since she was three years old.

"Clap the beats first, and then you learn the music, and you hear it, and then you do your best to mimic it and then repetition, repetition, repetition," Pickup explained.

It’s a music method for success for this group, who truly knows no limit.

The OWL camp is in its 15th year, and due to generous sponsors, the camp is free for all the children. 

Learn more about NewView Oklahoma