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Raise your hand if you’ve ever played a musical instrument. 

At Visibly, our employees’ instrument-playing knowledge spans across the ensemble, ranging from trumpeters to flutists to saxophonists to singers. And many continue to actively practice their art today! Deb actively practices her singing talents, while Henry is a part of the Greenville Concert Band in South Carolina as a clarinetist. 

Now imagine the first time that you auditioned for a band or ensemble. What kind of materials did you need to prepare? 

Firstly, there’s your instrument itself, then the sheet music to learn for your audition, which is exactly what Dr. Dan Turner, Music Director and Conductor of the Greenville Concert Band, considered when he received an email from a new, potential band member named Winona who wanted to audition for his ensemble. 

Founded in 1972, the Greenville Concert Band is a true community ensemble comprised of around 80 members ranging from the ages of 17-88 years old. The band is one of the cultural gems of the South Carolina upstate, promoting quality performance and appreciation of wind literature in the Greenville community. They also pride themselves on “providing an opportunity for skilled, volunteer musicians of all ages and walks of life to pursue their art in a musically rich, yet purposeful, environment.” 

Dr. Turner has been serving as Music Director and Conductor of the band for five years after his extensive experience as Director of Bands, Director of Instrumental Activities, and Professor of Music at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Turner holds degrees from Bob Jones University (B.S.) and the University of Illinois (M.S. and EdD) where he studied under such eminent musician-educators as Charles Leonhard, Richard Colwell, and band conductor Harry Begian. Having taught hundreds of students during his 47-year tenure, Dan had the honor of working with young, gifted musicians from all over the world with different backgrounds, knowledge bases, and experiences, and continues to do so in his role at Greenville Concert Band.

When Winona reached out to audition, naturally, Dan sent the audition music and information about becoming a member, just as he had done for the duration of his time overseeing the ensemble. However, after sending over the sheet music via email, he learned that Winona was blind. 

 “Because the band seeks to serve our entire community,” he said, “ how could we not do everything in our power to provide an opportunity for Winona to audition and succeed in the ensemble. The Board agreed and Dan began researching what it would take.” 

 Winona had graduated from college with a degree in trumpet performance and has since dedicated much of her life to being a musician. “I am a musician; I just must play my instrument,” Winona told Dr. Turner. In order to learn and play the music, she initially must have music in Braille Music Notation, a complex system that creates the sheet music she needs to play her trumpet. She reads the notes with the fingers of her left hand while at the same time blowing the horn and fingering the pitches with her right hand! Winona then memorizes every piece of music during rehearsals and by studying at home before performing in concerts.

To facilitate a proper audition, Dan contacted the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind to gain as much insight as possible about how to welcome a blind musician to their ensemble. One of Winona’s former college band directors provided helpful information about assisting a fully blind musician and translating sheet music into braille for Winona to read. Dan contacted the company in Florida that had previously provided braille music for Winona for information. After her audition, Winona wrote Dan this message, “I miss playing music with others. I may not have the music to read, but I can just play bits and pieces I hear, just for the joy of being with others.”

Unbeknownst to the ensemble, translating sheet music to braille comes with a very large price tag that, as a non-profit organization, the Greenville Concert Band was not sure they could afford. When band member and Visibly Success Team Lead Henry Hamilton-Clement heard about this, he felt a deep, heartfelt desire to help make this idea become reality. 

“When I heard about Winona’s candidacy, and the financial obstacles that could keep her from participating, I was moved beyond words…and then I got chills all over,” Henry told us. “It struck me that I work for a company whose mission is helping people see better, for which vision is both a sense, and a purpose. I just knew that we could help.” 

With a mission of providing vision resources to anyone, anywhere, at any time, Visibly jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Greenville Concert Band so that Winona’s braille sheet music could be produced. “I’m proud to be in the Greenville Concert Band and so very proud to work for a company like Visibly,” Henry concluded.

“We believe in a world where everyone has access to affordable, dependable vision resources no matter who you are or where you are located,” says Brent Rasmussen, CEO of Visibly. “We are inspired by the efforts of both Winona and the entire Greenville Concert Band, and we are honored to be a part of these efforts.”

Winona is now an active member of the ensemble and was welcomed by members with open arms. Immediately, members were moved and impressed by her performance and talent as they commented: “Wow, she can really play!” And that is no exaggeration!

Men and woman musicians

After her first rehearsal, with her first folder of Braille music, Winona wrote an email saying what a wonderful experience her first rehearsal was, how welcomed she felt by the members, and how wonderful it was that Visibly could help in providing this opportunity for her. 

If you’d like to go see the Greenville Concert Band perform, you can check out their concert schedule here! Some of their upcoming performances include:

    • October 29: 7:00 PM – Spellbound: A Halloween-fest at Greenville’s White Oak Baptist Church Gymnasium 
      • Featured in this FREE concert will be the darkly beautiful This Cruel Moon as well as some of the greatest spooky hits ever—Night on Bald Mountain, March of the Trolls, Music for a Darkened Theatre and other chillingly good selections. All children will receive pre-Halloween treats and costumes are welcome! Seating is limited, so Get your FREE tickets here!
    • Saturday, Dec 11th, 2 PM “Caroling, Caroling” at the Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St, Greer
    • Sunday, December 12th, 2 PM “Caroling, Caroling” at White Oak Baptist Church Gymnasium
    • Sunday, February 27th, 3 PM “Journeys” at the Spinning Jenny

National Blindness Awareness Month

October is National Blindness Awareness Month, an initiative to bring more awareness and education to our communities about vision impairment. Here are just a few ways that you can get involved:

Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Vision Walk – this fall and next spring, there are numerous walks taking place across the country. You can find the closest event taking place near you here!

Be My Eyes – Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.