Sightless students turn saxophonists
Zafere Tohut may not be able to see her saxophone, but she said she loved the strange vibration it made on her lower lip the moment she played it for the first time.
The 10-year-old is proud to be one of 13 visually impaired children who are members of a saxophone band in Urumqi, capital of northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Her teacher, Chen Xiaodong, started working at the city’s school for the blind in December. His goal is to recruit more students to form a symphony orchestra.
On Dec 16, Chen taught his second saxophone lesson at the school, which was established in 1959 and currently has children enrolled from eight of the region’s ethnic groups.
I cannot quit now because the teachers and children are one team.”
He guided Zafere’s hands as they practiced assembling one of the instruments.
“You have to put it together all by yourself in the future so you have to know its parts very well,” he said, patiently.
The children in Chen’s class were then told to touch their saxophones’ reed, one of the most delicate and important parts of the instrument. As this fine strip of material can be thinner than a piece of paper, locating it was quite a challenge.
With that task completed, each child was instructed on how to begin playing the sax. Chen let them touch his mouth and feel his breath as he played.
“They (the saxophones) make such a beautiful sound and I just love it,” Zafere said.
Cui Jianming, a teacher at the school, said that visually impaired children have a heightened sense of hearing and that the students had shown great interest in the sound a saxophone makes.
He first had the idea of establishing a band in Urumqi when he came across a symphony orchestra consisting of children with special needs in Chongqing.
The school decided to start with a saxophone band at first to keep costs down. To help the children learn, 19 teachers have been assigned to sit with the children and provide one-onone tutoring.
“I know I have to learn how to play first before I can teach the children,” said Arna, a teacher whose fondness for saxophone music inspired her to volunteer her help.
“I cannot quit now because the teachers and children are one team.”
Contact the writers at cuijia@ chinadaily.com.cn
A teacher helps a band member get to know the saxophone’s mouthpiece and reed.
Members of the saxophone band gather to practice at a classroom in Urumqi’s school for the blind.