A couple of years ago, I received an email inquiry from an NLS music section patron wanting to know if we would accept gift braille music, from his personal collection. I said we would be glad to receive whatever he wanted to send. He, then, responded by asking if we could send him some empty braille mailing containers to facilitate the process. And I again happily agreed.
Now, more than 35 boxes of braille music have come into NLS. And there is still more to come! All of the music that arrived was of first rate quality and condition. It is all classical and nearly all piano, ranging from pre-Bach to the 20th century. There is also some organ music, Bach and Franck, for example.
This may disappoint all you guitar-strumming pop-music- loving people. Your preferences will be blogged about soon enough.
But I had to talk to this person, to get to know how and why he had so much music.
Well, it turns out that Bob Smith, now living in Oregon, was a music instructor. Piano was his instrument. He taught for more than 30 years at Rio Hondo College in southern California.
That position brought him many and diverse students. He wanted to be prepared for whatever music they wanted or needed. And by prepared, he meant having the hard copy of a score right at hand. So he began acquiring braille music from everywhere he could: American Printing House for the Blind, the Italian Library for the Blind in Monza and Firenze, the German library in Hannover, the Royal National Library for the Blind in England, and so on. His motto was, in effect, the more the better.
He began seriously collecting in the ‘60s and did so until his retirement in the ‘90s. He and his students benefitted then, and we can benefit now by accepting his gifts. NLS will keep those (few) titles that were not already in the collection. And we will be offering the many remaining titles on upcoming offerings of free braille music from this blog. And this is much to the delight of Bob himself. He knows the value of having one’s own scores and glad to know that his may be passed on to others.
Bob was born and raised in Whittier, California. He notes with gratitude that his parents were very supportive of him and his interest in music. They allowed him, he said, “to practice every day as much as I wanted.”
(After I got back up on my chair, I wondered where I went wrong as both a piano student and parent of piano students.)
In any case, Bob was clearly successful. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Whittier College. That was followed by a master’s degree in music from the University of Southern California (USC). After a couple of years in the doctoral program at USC, he decided he would compete in the job market sooner rather than later, and ended that program. He studied privately in New York for a brief period and also attended summer school “at that college in Connecticut….uh, what was it,…..hmm, oh yes, Yale.”
His first position was a part-time teaching stint at Whittier College. His first permanent position, competing in the open market, was at Rio Hondo College. Clearly, everyone was happy with that. Thirty years is a substantial period of time. While there he was also active in the local music scene, giving occasional public performances.
Here in the Music Section we are happy to have heard the story behind all those scores that have been coming in from the West. It is only a little too bad that Bob’s career pre-dated digital braille music. He would have embraced it. Today he is an active BARD patron enjoying the literary benefits of NLS.
Our thanks to him for his music and his sharing his story with us.
What a great article on a great man. I am a retired teacher, not of music, but of special ed adults. When ever there was a concerts of music at Western New Mexico University, in Silver City, NM I would take all 14 of my students to enlarge on their education. They enjoyed it all very much. Thank You