WLIW Arts Beat


Lighthouse Guild

The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School is the official music school of The Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit healthcare and service organization for the blind and visually impaired. There, clients get the tools they need for success in music and in life.

AIRED: December 18, 2017 | 0:05:41

>> Please hit 1-5-4-8-9 --

>> Oh, God.

Definitely not including that.

>> 11-year-old Madeline Mau is

serious about mastering music

production and the violin.

She's also blind, which means

she needs to read braille sheet

music, a skill not taught in her

public school music class.

So Mau travels almost two hours

each way from New Jersey every

weekend for music classes at the

Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg

Music School in Manhattan.

It's the official music school

of the Lighthouse Guild, a

nonprofit healthcare and service

organization for the blind and

visually impaired.

>> It's a lot easier for me to

learn music.

I used to learn just by ear, and

that was cumbersome because I

had to listen to it many, many,

many times.

And then I might get some

fingerings wrong.

That's why I think braille music

is so important because I can

get the fine details of the

music, so I can play it


>> Two, three, four.

>> Executive director of the

music school, Leslie Jones, says

her goal for the organization's

130+ students and clients is to

foster literacy in reading and

writing braille music.

But the program does much more

than that.

It teaches blind and visually

impaired people of all ages what

tools are available to them in

music and in day-to-day life.

>> ♪ The snowman in the yard is

frozen ♪

>> A client of the music school

might be directed to the

organization's healthcare arm

for adaptive technology training

or career services.

Conversely, a professional

musician seeking healthcare

related to newly developed

blindness might be directed to

the music school for large print

or braille sheet music in


Across the board, Jones pushes

the importance of being one's

own advocate.

For example, she says often

young people with vision issues

have limited access to large

print or braille sheet music in


>> If you don't give the

materials in braille or in large

print, then often that student

is isolated in their classroom,

or they are exposed to the myth

that because you have vision

loss and can't see that

automatically your ears are

special and they can understand

everything without ever seeing a

piece of music.


If you get the right tools and

you have that desire and you

have that training, there's

nothing in the world that should

be able to stop you.

And that is my biggest hope for

the future of music education,

that what has been extraordinary

becomes ordinary.

>> The organization has a vast

library of large print and

braille sheet music.

Students and teachers also have

the ability to translate

regular sheet music into braille

sheet music through software by

keying in a part on the piano,

for example, and then printing

out a braille translation on a

special printer.

>> Rewind to the beginning.



>> An audible screen reading

program called JAWS has been

linked to music creation and

editing software, as well,

allowing users to create music

and play it back without having

to see the computer screen.

[ Choir vocalizing ]

On this weeknight, the choir

room is filled with adult


This is a community music school

meaning there's no audition to

enter, so some musicians are

training to make it

professionally, while others are

here for fun and camaraderie.

[ Choir vocalizing ]

Patrick Comas started losing his

vision suddenly two years ago

and became completely blind.

He came to the Lighthouse Guild

for the organization's

healthcare services.

Having always wanted to sing and

out of work on disability, he

joined the music school, too.

Now Comas' vision is slowly

starting to return, but he

continues going to choir

rehearsals and voice lessons.

>> It was a hard transition.

When I lost my vision, I mean, I

was living a normal life, and

then I had to pack up all my

stuff and go back home to my


And I'm in this little closet

room, and music was an outlet.

Music was like escaping a world

of demons.

♪ The true words of welcome

♪ Has opened him the door

Coming here and being around my

fellow members here, you know,

and I'm observing the others,

they're happy.

They're happy.

I'm just like, "Wow.

I'm around some happy people."

[ Choir singing ]

>> Spending time with others who

are blind or visually impaired

is a plus for Lily Mordaunt,


She started taking classes at

the music school as a kid.

Now in college, Mordaunt is a

member of the Lighthouse Guild's


>> Knowing that there are people

who genuinely don't care about

your level of vision, I think

it's always nice having a space

where that's the case because

it, you know, just makes you

remember that it's possible.

It's not a novelty or an anomaly

to be the blind student who

likes music.

It's just everybody's into

music, so it's not special.

It's just normal.

>> Jones says she loves working

in the music school atmosphere

with the current of creativity

and sounds of music overflowing

from practice rooms.

And she's glad Lighthouse can

provide students with the tools

they need to hone their craft.

>> It's music making, you know,


This is what we do.

Oh, you have vision loss?

Don't worry about that part.

Just be a good musician.

[ Laughs ]

[ Choir vocalizing ]


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