Sight­less stu­dents turn sax­o­phon­ists

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi and CUI JIA in Bei­jing

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@ chi­


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.

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