From a Tampa performing arts conservatory comes the story of a blind jazz saxophonist who uses his disability as a teaching tool. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, he encourages his students to act on instinct; to feel the music through their instruments, and not let the waking world deceive them.
“Welcome to every day of my life,” says Matthew Weihmuller in his jazz improvisation class after turning the lights off. “Then we have a big laugh,” he adds.
When Weihmuller started playing, he needed braille sheet music, and pieces would take months; even years to learn. As if that weren’t difficult enough, few people in the country were capable of providing braille music, so he started “brailling” his own, with the help of his mom—all the way through college.
“They can’t look at their instrument. Now, they have to feel their instrument with their fingers and hands, right?” Weihmuller told Fox 13. “Now, we’ve got to listen to the music. We can’t read it… It forces the students to use their other senses.”
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Advanced jazz musicians will understand that during improvisational sessions, a musician has to be ready for sudden changes in time signature or key. This is nearly impossible to express through sheet music. At least in this regard, the children are learning in the best way for this unorthodox, yet traditional form of jazz music.
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As an educator with blindness, Weihmuller stresses turning any disadvantage into an advantage, a teaching philosophy that has led some students to tell the man that he has changed the way they look at life.
“It’s everything for me, as an educator to hear someone say that you changed their life,” he states. “It’s awe-inspiring and I hope that I can inspire others who are dealing with their situations, disabilities, barriers, and challenges in the same way that I have.”
WATCH Weihmuller play below…
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