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Deaf Music:

Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Carson City School District

 “Deaf Music”

 A few years ago, I was a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing in an elementary school where students could take band or strings in the fifth grade.  While I was there, all of the fifth grade deaf and hard of hearing students did take band or strings.  At first, the music teachers were a little skeptical, to say the least; but before the end of the year, they were enthusiastic supporters of “deaf music”.  I had students that played percussion instruments, flutes, trumpets, saxophones, and even the cello. Then, this year during the holiday season, I attended a Christmas concert at one of the elementary schools.  One of the percussionists was profoundly deaf.  I was inspired watching this student, the interpreter, the teacher and the other students perform together. These music teachers often told me that they wished the other students had the same sense of rhythm and the same focus that my students had.  One of the students had a tuning meter attached to his saxophone within his vision so he could see when he hit the correct note.  Some had interpreters to give them the information the teacher was voicing and keep the students on the “same page”, same note on the sheet of music.  They all, everyone, enjoyed the experience and the exposure to the language and math of music. 


I have been to deaf rock concerts where all members of the band were deaf and so were the members of the audience.  The music was loud, the people were dancing.  All of a sudden, balloons appeared and were bounced around amongst the dancers.  I grabbed one; I could FEEL the music through the balloon.  I could feel the music through the floor.  I could feel the music in my body and soul.  I learned I could “hear” music without using my ears.


I became very curious about this so I took my students to a “Stomp” concert, read about different deaf musicians, my class made drums and practiced different rhythms after watching an assembly on Taiko drummers, and I looked up “deaf music” on the internet.  I found many interesting articles but one stood out;

Here are a couple of quotes from that article:


Vibrational information has essentially the same features as sound information so it makes sense that in the deaf, one modality may replace the other modality in the same processing area of the brain.  It’s the nature of the information, not the modality of the information, that seems to be important to the developing brain.


In addition, Shibata says, the research is important because it suggest that it may be helpful to expose deaf children to music early in life so that their brain “music centers” may have the stimulus to develop. 


We are so lucky in the field of education to have these opportunities which allow students to develop a variety of interests and skills and also will allow them to determine for themselves what they are able to do.  We are giving them a foundation for confidence to try things that might, at first glance, seem impossible at a time in their lives when we might say, “ all things are possible”. 




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