Specialist blind teaching methods catch on at Stevenson College

Amy Moar demonstrates her piano ability

Amy Moar demonstrates her piano ability

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DESPITE a number of setbacks in life, talented pianist Amy Moar hasn’t let anything stand in the way of her love for music.

Now the gifted musician – who is registered blind – has created such an impression at Stevenson College that her tutors are planning to use specialised teaching methods inspired by the 20-year-old to encourage other students to learn.

Amy, who is studying for an HND in classical music at Stevenson College and lives in Edinburgh, is the first registered blind student to study music at the college, which meant tutors had to adapt their teaching methods to suit her needs.

These have proved so successful that they are now planning to roll the techniques out to other students on the HNC and HND courses.

Amy’s tutor, Neil Metcalfe, said: “When Amy first arrived at Stevenson, she was already an extremely accomplished pianist. However, to further her skills, we sat down and discussed her needs. As she doesn’t read Braille, we needed to come up with another way to teach her music.

“We began recording sound clips on Amy’s dictaphone, which she then referred to during her practice sessions at home. It was a trial and error process, but we worked out that 16 bars of music was the optimum amount for her to memorise at a time.

“We then broke down her tutoring sessions to small intervals where we would firstly recap on the previous week’s memory work, before playing a new piece of music to her which she would repeat back. The final part of the session was spent recapping on what she had learned and what she would do for next time.”

He added: “Amy is in a class with 20 other classical musicians and many of them have taken to this learning style. Learning by ear is good for all our students, who are now also taping lessons and learning from memory.”

Amy, who has performed for the Dalai Lama and at London’s O2 Arena, has been studying at the college for two years.

She said: “I’ve loved studying at Stevenson and have found their teaching methods very helpful. My music practice has become more disciplined and I’m now doing more lengthy practice sessions.

“It’s great that these methods are being rolled out further and will help teach other students at the college.

“I’ve had some great experiences at Stevenson, including getting to perform with the choir at the O2 Arena in London during the opening of the World Skills contest.”

The keen pianist, who has been blind since birth, also sings in the college’s choir and is part of its folk 
group.