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Sigma Alpha Iota’s Bold Contributions

We have several times mentioned on this blog that the Music Section has a substantial collection of “large print” scores and books. They provide a collection of readable music for young and old alike, whether a middle or high school student beginning on the trumpet or those of a certain age wanting to remember and recreate the music of their youth or earlier adulthood, or start something fresh.

There are only a limited number of sources for sheet music that has a one inch high staff. NLS arranges for new scores each year. But since the 1970s the Music Section has received free large print scores from the members of SAI, Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity founded in 1903. The donations were part of SAI’s philanthropies, the “Bold Note” project, which is a part of their Services for Musicians with Special Needs. They were actually written out by hand and then duplicated for use by our patrons. This practice lasted into the 1990s.

There are currently well over 100 Bold Note scores in our collection. But additions languished in the early 2000s. Around 2006 I was contacted by Dr. Karen Gearreald, director of SAI’s Services for Musicians with Special Needs, who suggested reviving the Bold Note program, but using modern music notation software, which, by then was readily available to many members of SAI’s chapters and alumnae groups around the country. Not long after, I met here at the Library of Congress with Karen and Daryle Gardner-Bonneau, then national treasurer for SAI, to plan and strategize just how this could work.

Project implementation started within a year of the meetings. The subsequent development of this newly designed, now software-driven, project continued with some standard ups and downs. But under the leadership of Arlene Jospe Veron, the Bold Note project has now gotten consistent direction and oversight, with the benefits accruing to the patrons of the Music Section and the thanks directed to Arlene, Karen, and the many SAI individuals and chapter groups, from East to West and South to North. And they are all supported on the “inside” by NLS Music Section staff member, Mary Dell Jenkins, originally inducted as a member of the Gamma Phi chapter at Hardin-Simmons University.

The types of music produced can be quite varied and for any instrument. Piano music probably dominates the list of instruments, but vocal music is also well represented. We have gotten the score for Satin Doll, by Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and Billy Strayhorn. And then there are the well-known sonatinas by Kuhlau, a Chopin waltz, and a Schubert Moment Musical. And we are always looking for more.

Photo, with human scale, of sample pages of a recent large print music score from SAI.

Photo, with human scale, of sample pages of a recent large print music score from SAI.

Piano music is printed on paper that is usually 11″ by 17″ in size, landscape orientation, so you’re glad to have a piano to put it on. For vocal music, whether solo or chorus parts, we try to use 11″ by 14″ in portrait orientation, more user friendly when standing or sitting in a group. With a one inch high staff the notes are usually large enough for ready reading. These are the basic and standard “specs” for large print scores, but in a digital environment we have the capacity to tweak these as the situation may require.

To borrow such large print scores, one needs to be registered with one of the regional libraries for the blind. Certifiable visual disability provides eligibility. For a full description of eligibility, consult the NLS website, where there are also links to related documents, including applications and where to sign up.


NOTE:  We will not have a Thursday post on December 25, or on January 1.  But we will be back on the 8th of January, refreshed for a new year of NLS Music Notes.  See you then.

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