A Partnership with Vision

Berklee’s blind population is growing, as word has gotten out that Berklee is an environment where blind musicians can thrive and grow. After performing with vocalist John Castillo from the Perkins School for the Blind and renowned jazz composer and pianist Lisa Hamilton, Noe Socha ’13 noted, “Berklee is opening doors for blind students to work with world-class musicians in a professional setting.”

Many of those doors have been opened thanks to assistant professor of music therapy Chi Kim ’06. Kim teaches in the Assistive Music Technology Lab for Blind and Visually Impaired students at Berklee, providing blind musicians with the tools and technology needed to succeed at the college and in the music industry at large. Following a 2009 Berklee summit for blind musicians, Kim developed a curriculum devoted to music technology and incorporating a support system the ensures that a blind student at Berklee can create and perform music at the highest levels. That capability translates into successful careers in music.

What started as a pilot program is now an ongoing lab that is available to full-time students during Berklee’s popular Five-Week Sumer Performance Program for musicians who are 15 and older. A generous grant from the Grousbeck Family Foundation has enabled the program to expand, providing an official bridge between Berklee and the Perkins School for the Blind, where Berklee alumnus Matt Carlson ’11, a former DJ for Berklee’s BIRN radio station, got a Perkins radio station up and running.

The results are dramatic for blind and vision-impaired musicians seeking to take their career to the next level with a music education from Berklee. When Tina Fiorentino sought a summer program for her son, Rocco, she found that when she conducted a Google search for “summer music camp for blind musicians,” Berklee was the only search result. “So many programs questioned how they could accommodate a blind student,” Fiorentino says. “The Berklee staff embraced an individual with visual challenges.”