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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: C (Part 1 – Campbell, Francis Joseph)

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The NLS Music Section is part of a national network of cooperating libraries.  With that in mind, we are in touch with the network when they have patrons who are interested in the materials provided by our section, and there is a nice spirit of cooperation between the network and our offices here in the District of Columbia.

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies is a division of the American Library Association and has for many years presented an award known as the “Francis Joseph Campbell Award.” Recent Campbell Award winners include Steve Prine, (2016), Assistant Chief, NLS Network Division,  Jill Lewis (2013), former Director for the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Chris Mundy (2014) Quality Assurance at Multi-State Center East.

This award was named for Francis Joseph Campbell, a native Tennessean born in 1832 and advocate for the blind.  After losing his vision as a child, it was suggested that he should learn basket weaving.  Joseph refused to maintain basket weaving as his avocation, and continued to study music in secret, learning music from his classmates.  How endearing is that for someone with a passion for music?  When the music teacher learned of these secret studies, he relented and began teaching Joseph himself.

With time, Joseph taught at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville, and eventually at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston.  (Shout out for our regional libraries in Tennessee and Massachusetts!) Further musical training was provided in Berlin and Leipzig. Campbell continued his musical career in England promoting braille notation to aid in reading and writing of music. He also encouraged independence for blind persons and pursued cycling, swimming and climbing mountains. With philanthropist Thomas Rhodes Armitage, he promoted music education under the patronage of Queen Victoria, and was knighted by King Edward VII in 1909, a far cry from a basket weaving career path.

The NLS collection includes information about Joseph Campbell with The Blind in History, Volume 3 (in Spanish) at DBF 00003. There is also a small biography in Great Blind Men and Women by Mary Thomas, available in braille at BRA 18402.  And the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress has his papers, including some braille.

Mutual cooperation goes a long way towards helping many people. Thanks to the classmates and music teachers of Francis Joseph Campbell, many people benefited from his passion for music and helped him to succeed on many levels.

Patrons read at the Reading Room for the Blind, Library of Congress

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