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Welcome to the NLS Music Notes Blog

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This post was a collaboration with Mary Dell Jenkins, Amanda Smith, and Katie Rodda.

Welcome to the inaugural post of NLS Music Notes! This blog is designed to share information about the services of the Music Section and its special format music collection: in braille, large print, and audio.

We are located in Washington, DC, at the Taylor Street Annex, about five miles from Capitol Hill and the main buildings of the Library of Congress.

For those who may be unfamiliar with “NLS,” it is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, part of the Library Services’ Partnership and Outreach Programs within the Library of Congress. It is a free national library program of braille and recorded books and magazines.

The Music Section oversees, circulates and administers the music collection. It has the largest collection of music braille in the world and is very much an international collection, just as music is an international phenomenon. The large-print component of the collection, though smaller than the braille, is also substantial and we know of no comparable collection anywhere. The audio component contains thousands of titles, most of which are designed for the blind and require no written materials, from how-to instructional materials to music appreciation titles.

We hope to spread knowledge of this collection, especially to those who need and want it. The blog will highlight these collections and all future acquisitions.

We will also feature, in various ways, some of our patrons: musicians, aspiring musicians, music students, and all those who embrace music in its diverse aspects. As one example, we include here a portion of the performance by the blind classical pianist, Enrico Lisi, who NLS sponsored in 2005 to perform at the Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Listen to a clip from Enrico’s performance.

Enrico is from Milan, Italy, and studied at the conservatory in Milan, and later with several prominent pianists in Italy and Germany. He has also performed at various venues in Europe, mainly Italian. The work heard on the clip is the Tarantella from Franz Liszt’s Venezia e Napoli (Années de Pèlerinage II. Supplement).

Photo of Enrico Lisi in concert in the Coolidge Auditorium, 2005
Photo of Enrico Lisi in concert in the Coolidge Auditorium, 2005


You will also get to meet our staff, all of whom are or have been active musicians. We’re currently overrun with brass people, trumpet (Amanda), French horn (Mary Dell), and trombone (Katie). But we have harbored pianists (Gilbert Busch), violinists and guitarists, too. We’ll highlight our work in acquiring, cataloging, transcribing and preserving of collections, as well as information about them.As a full service collection, we’ll have posts that feature our resources for beginning music students as well as materials for those more advanced in all instruments.

We have no bias for type of music.  So, for example, we provide a link to a recording from the performance of Bess Bonnier, a jazz pianist from Detroit, who NLS sponsored in a concert at the Coolidge in 2006. She introduces and plays “I Remember Clifford” by Benny Golson.

Listen to a clip from Bess’s performance.

Bess studied at Wayne State University, performed in various venues in the Detroit area, as well as the Detroit Piano Summit in New York, at the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival and many others. She was also a composer, known for her bebop style, in such works as Love Notes (1997); Suite William (1992); and Duet to Quartet (1982).

Photo of CD album cover: Bess Bonnier Quartet, Love Notes (Noteworks Records, 1997)
Photo of CD album cover: Bess Bonnier Quartet, Love Notes (Noteworks Records, 1997)

We look forward to comments and suggestions regarding what we post, since one of the benefits of a blog is that it is a two-way street.


  1. Fabulous! Who would ever have thought, when I was working in the Music Section in the late 80s, of where we might be just 25 years later! I loved working with the great people and resources at NLS; it was some of the most rewarding time I spent at the Library of Congress.

    Sharon McKinley (NLS 1988-1991; Music Division 1991-2012)

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