Archived Conversations

Below are archived conversations from the SMT-list or the DISMUS-list. There are questions and answers regarding hearing loss and aural skills accommodations, adaptive technology for the iPad, and dyslexia and music theory/aural skills.

10.2.14 post to SMT-L and DISMUS-L regarding deafness in left ear, pitch height, and aural skills accommodations:

Dear colleagues,

We have a very hard-working, gifted young pianist who cannot pass her aural skills sequence. She has bronchial pulmonary dispasia (which affects her ability to sight-sing). But her primary issue is almost total deafness in her left ear. She struggled for a long while to understand why she had absolutely no problems with speech or understanding speech, but had difficulty reproducing and recognizing pitch height. According to a recent research paper she shared with me, we use our left ears almost exclusively for that purpose, while using the right ear to decipher speech and syntactical relationships. Has anyone dealt with a similar situation, or has anyone dealt with a situation where a student simply could not complete their aural skills requirement for medical reasons? Thank you very much for any replies.

Amy Bauer

Associate Professor of Music Theory
3043 Contemporary Arts Center
Claire Trevor School of the Arts
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-2775


  • I’ve never dealt with a partially deaf student, so I can’t offer any suggestions  there. However, in 2008 we had an undergraduate whose severe asthma prevented her from singing more than 3-4 notes in a row. The disabilities office here at IU agreed to purchase a Theremin for this student, and she successfully completed her aural skills requirements on the instrument. As I recall, it was fairly inexpensive (around $250) and easy to learn to play. It proved to be a really effective workaround for that student. Best of luck,

    Kyle Adams

    Associate Professor of Music Theory
    Jacobs School of Music
    Indiana University
  • I suffered a TBI when I was 12 years old (car accident) which left me completely deaf in my left ear. It was about this time that I began to study music, beginning with guitar lessons. I had difficulties with sight singing when I first began university music study but I attributed this most of all to not being a singer and never having tried it before.  I have never had the experience of dealing with a student who for medical reasons could not meet the aural skills requirement, but it must be possible. Students may be undiagnosed and neither they nor their teachers be aware. Perhaps so called ‘tone-deaf’ students get discouraged by themselves and others so that they self de-select from our courses and majors and perhaps that’s why we don’t encounter this more. I became a decent sight singer and have taught aural skills for years. I went on to sing professionally and this certainly helped. My relative pitch recognition is pretty good. I’ve never heard of research about the tasking of right-left auditory channels, although it does make some sense. What I do know, because I have had to grapple with it, is that the brain can re-wire–given enough time and effort. Of course, this is not likely to happen over the course of a theory sequence, but I would council patience with these students and would encourage them to challenge their own disabilities as I have done with mine. The only regret I have as a monaural musician is that I will never hear stereo (not unless we somehow become able to repair destroyed auditory nerves in the brain).
    All the best,
    Darryl White
    Ph.D. Candidate
    University of Arizona
    School of Music
  • I had a student with moderate hearing loss. With the help from the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities and proper documentation (results of his hearing test), the requirement of aural perception was waived by our Academic Regulation Committee. Has your student checked her hearing for the right ear? The frequency range for speech and music is quite different. Best,

    Feilin Hsiao, Ph.D., MT-BC, Music Therapy Program Director

    Associate Professor, Conservatory of Music, University of the Pacific

  • My deafness is in my right ear but I am 80% deaf in my left and since childhood, learned pitch height through developing sensitivity towards vibration and frequencies similar to how Beethoven composed in his later years. The student needs to relearn her physical sensitivites inwards, this can develop into migraines sometimes which happens to me actually. Please feel free to pass along my information. Best regards, Maki
  • I get the sense you’re most interested in practical evidence, but I found myself intrigued with your question and thought I’d send you some slightly more theoretical thoughts. In short, I would say that while differences can be found in processing styles found in the left and right hemispheres (specifically for auditory processing), the differences are not black-and-white. I’ve grouped these thoughts into anatomical considerations, neuropsychological considerations, and music-specific neuro-cognitive considerations. I suppose I should mention that I’m not an MD, so anything that piques your interest you should verify with someone who is.
    Anatomical Considerations
    One thing you mention having read is that “we use our left ears almost exclusively for” the purpose of “reproducing and recognizing pitch height.” I don’t have proof that this isn’t true, but I personally would shy away from accepting it without further investigation (and I’d love to take a look at the article you mention). It is clear that, if you look at neural pathways from each ear to each side of the brain, you will find a favoring for contralateral information flow: i.e., a slight tendency for sounds coming in through the left ear to be processed by the right side of the brain, and vice versa. I say “favoring” and “slight,” however, since the percentage ratio is not 100%-0% (as it is for vision), but is more like 60%-40% (at least to the best of my knowledge). There is, in addition, a significant amount of “cross-talk” across the hemispheres, at brainstem levels and via the corpus callosum in the neocortex. If you take a look at this figure, which traces the path of information flow from the left cochlea up the brainstem to the auditory cortex, you can see that most of the connections go to the contralateral side but that some do stay on the ipsilateral side. Thus, in theory at least, sound entering the right ear should be processed at least somewhat in the right auditory cortex. It is worth noting that if your student is “deaf in her left ear,” the deafness could conceivably be the result of damage at any one of these multiple points—ear drum, cochlea, auditory nerve, cochlear nucleus, inferior colliculus, auditory cortex, etc. It might be worth a visit to a neurologist or otolaryngologist to determine where origin of the deficit is. That visit could give you some clues on how to deal with her musical issues.
    Neuropsychological Considerations
    There is much debate regarding how music-specific the right hemisphere is, and how speech-specific the left hemisphere is. It seems that most researchers agree with a hypothesis advanced byRobert Zatorre and colleagues in around 2002 (dating at least back to Penhune et al. 1996) that the left hemisphere is not specialized for the processing speech per se, but rather is specialized for the processing of rapid information flow. Music can be fast, but speech virtually always is. Similarly, distinctions in speech tend to be simple binaries, such as “was that /b/ or /p/?” The left side of the (auditory) brain thus appears to be specialized for rapidly resolving yes-no binaries, the right for indulging in the contemplation of spectral complexity. There is anatomical support for this as well: the left Heschl’s gyrus (primary auditory cortex) has more white matter than gray, relative to the right HG—white matter translating to more myelination and hence faster transmission in neurons, but fewer neurons altogether. A recent study from Stefan Koelsch’s lab reports that music-specific processing is biased toward the right hemisphere as early as a few hours after birth. From the above it should be clear that there’s a general acknowledgement in the scientific community that the right and left sides of the brain (at least auditory cortices) do have differentprocessing styles. Nevertheless, this does not translate directly to speech-perception on the left and music-perception on the right. In primates as well as humans, regions in both the right and left sides of the brain are specially sensitive to the vocal sounds of conspecifics. We process both speech and music simultaneously along multiple parallel channels, some subserved more by left-side networks, some more by right-side networks. Moreover, there’s significant redundancy, such that whenever a right-side region shows activation for a given task, at least some activation (if less) is seen on the left as well. I don’t have a paper I can cite on this, but that’s my sense from my familiarity with the literature. In sum, the right and left auditory cortices do seem to have different strengths, and hence different processing styles. But there’s redundancy as well, with right side activations tending to be mirrored by left-side activations as well. The right and left auditory cortices are probably better thought to differ in degree rather than in kind. 

    You wrote specifically with concerns about your student’s ability to “reproduce and recognize pitch height.” In neuroscience, this faculty has been broken up into two sub-faculties—assessing height generally, and assessing membership in a pitch class or scale degree. The former, in the neuroscience literature, is called height, the latter chroma. E.g., C4 and C5 differ in height but not in chroma. Assessment of pitch height has been found to be a product of activity in a region just posterior to primary auditory cortex (on both sides of the brain), called the planum polare (PP). Assessment of pitch chroma has been found to be a product of activity in a region just anterior to primary auditory cortex, called the planum temporale (PT). My guess is that pitch chroma identification is the issue your student is having the most trouble with, and thus that there might be an issue either with the functioning of the PT or with getting information to the PT. I also would not at all be surprised if the right-side PT were more important for this task than the left-side PT, and this could explain why your student’s left-ear deafness might be an issue. But… I don’t see any evidence for the right-side PT being more integral to this task than the left-side PT. Warren et al. (2003) were the first (to my knowledge) to dissociate the functioning of PT and PP, and to attribute chroma identification to PP.  In their paper, I don’t see a significantly stronger involvement of the right PT than the left PT (but I may be missing something). You might consider sending them a note and seeing what they have to say about this. I also looked for more recent evidence about PP and pitch chroma but didn’t turn up much (at least nothing that challenges the original theory or says anything new about lateralization). Here’s a more up-to-date review of the the literature on the neurology of pitch perception generally, however, and these authors do indicate that many aspects of pitch perception are straightforwardly lateralized to the right hemisphere predominantly. I think a close read of that article could turn up some new leads.
    Here’s my summary.
    1) I would say the neurology of the situation is relevant. I think it’s great that your student showed you that study (please send it to me by the way!), and I also think any problem solving you continue to do can be usefully informed by understanding the neuroscience underlying pitch perception, chroma identification, and the connections between auditory cortex and the ears. As I said, I’m not an MD, but I’m more than happy to keep exchanging thoughts and be available for idea-bouncing-off.
    2) I think a neurological and/or otolaryngological assessment would be a good investment in the student’s musical future, given that it might help diagnose the problem better, and thus help you guide her education better.
    3) Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear—his right—and seems to have had no problem understanding speech. Reciprocally, I would be somewhat surprised if deafness in the left ear necessarily meant difficulty resolving and reproducing pitch. But it is clear that the right brain has some privileged involvement in music cognition, and the right brain gets its input predominantly (but not exclusively) from the left ear. All of this just means that a medical exam would be worthwhile. If you get one, let me know, and I’ll try to help sort out further issues. I hope this helps!
    David Bashwiner, Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico
  • Many thanks to David Bashwiner for his thorough answer to Amy’s question—a fine “teachable moment”(!) And just a note to second the gist of David’s summary: many of these studies involve what might, at best, be called “quasi musical stimuli,” and involve participants at vastly different stages of auditory development and enculturation (from newborns to geriatrics).  So, it is indeed murky just how this student’s “deafness in her left ear” (which, as David points out, may arise at any number of points in the auditory pathway) would affect her aural skills performance, which is not to say there isn’t some significant effect.
    All best,
    Justin London, Professor, Carleton College
  • This is a difficult one to diagnose by email! The first thing to ascertain is whether she is able to hear differences in pitch with her good ear and to what extent.  (e.g. are these two notes (which have the same loudness and timbre) the same or different in pitch?) If she is able to hear differences in pitch, then there is the labelling issue.  Some people are able to hear pitch differences but struggle to tell which of two notes is higher in pitch.   So the next question is:  is this note higher or lower than this note? (Alternatively use the melodic contour self-test, from the self tests section of the website.)  This will give you some information as to whether there is a discrimination or identification problem. I am not sure what the task is for the aural skills sequence test – I suspect that it is considerably more complex than a simple, ‘which note is higher?’ task. it would be worth breaking it down to simpler components to see where the difficulty lay.  Sometimes those with long-standing hearing loss have a problem with auditory memory, although I would think this unlikely in a pianist. With regards to the left/right ear issue, I think that this may be a red herring.  We routinely provide profoundly deaf patients with an  implant in one ear only and I cannot recall any significant left/right issues for speech perception or music perception. Good luck with your pupil,
    Mary Grasmeder
    Clinical Scientist (Audiology)
    University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service
    ISVR Building 19
    University of Southampton
    SO17 1BJ


9.23.13 post to DISMUS-L regarding adaptive technology for 6th grade band student, specifically iPad apps:

“I am a SMT member and work at a music store in Illinois. I had a mom call requesting information and thought you might have some resources to share. She has a 6th grader who would like to participate in the band program, but has disabilities that limit her ability to hold an instrument. She would like to participate via an ipad, but is not getting much support from the music teacher. I do not have much information on the specific disability/abilities, but it sounded like the student uses a wheelchair. Do you have a list of apps available that would allow her to participate in this manner? Specifically, they are using the band method “Traditions of Excellence,” but I was not hopeful for something directly tied to that method.”
Thanks for any help you can provide!

Beth Smith
The Music Shoppe


  • One of my closest friends is a blind musician who uses an iPad for music-making, so I’ve forwarded this message to him.  He may have some thoughts.  But in the meantime, do you have any idea if the student would be reading music for an instrument, and then emulating that instrument via iPad?  Or would the student be improvising without written music?  My suspicion is that the band director is concerned about pitch interference of some sort, if the student is not reading music for whatever reason (i.e., the student is improvising).  But I would still think non-pitched percussion emulation could be a route for participation.  In any event, I for one think the use of the iPad to allow the student to participate is a wonderful idea and I would hope the band director in question might reconsider his or her reluctance.  It sounds like a problem that just needs the right app and a little imagination. Best,
    Robert Gross
  • Is the student interested in a pitched (melody) instrument or is it possible she might be interested in doing some percussion parts?  If the latter, it might be possible for her to work with some of the electric drum kit software (the types used to make drum parts without drums!) that would allow her to tap and produce percussion hits.  I’m not an iPad user (I have an Android tablet), but surely among all the apps there is a good percussion app that would let her potentially play along with the drum section.   She might even be able to (virtually) do cymbal crashes, bass drum, or some of the other parts that don’t require as frequent taps to initiate the sound as the snare drum parts, but would require counting along and following her part. Depending on the student (and whether she is able to sing or not), a choir teacher might be more open to including her—less hand fine-motor coordination required, and, from teaching a lot of experienced music educators in a summer MME program, it seems the Choral teachers have more experience with working with students with various types of disabilities (physical and cognitive).                          Prof. Jane Piper Clendinning, Florida State University
  • You might look into AUMI, the Adaptive Use of Musical Instruments, software developed by Pauline Oliveros’s Deep Listening Institute.  It’s designed mostly for children with severe physical disabilities as a way to create music with gesture and motion.  They’ve adapted the software for use on the Ipad and the Iphone.  I’m not sure how it would interface in a band setting (or with traditional music notation), but there would be potential for integrating it, I would imagine.  Here’s the link: luck! Jon Kochavi, Swarthmore College
  • Other apps: Percussive suggested by Giovanna Davila, University of Iowa; Biophilia by Bjork suggested by Jennifer Iverson, University of Iowa


10.16.11 post to SMT-L and DISMUS-L regarding dyslexia and music theory/aural skills
Dear Colleagues,

I have a freshman music theory and aural skills student who is demonstrating signs of dyslexia. While she is pursuing testing and an official diagnosis, I’m searching for ways to help her through some of her specific struggles. So far I’ve found some helpful lists of musical problems often associated with dyslexia, many of which are true for this student, but nothing in terms of helping an adult learn music theory, dictation, or sight singing. Do any of you know of specific resources for music theory instructors in this regard? Or have you found types of practice techniques, assignments, accommodations that were helpful for a dyslexic student in your charge? Until we have an official diagnosis, we can’t make any testing accommodations, but I’d like to start tutoring as soon as possible (she needs tutoring help whether dyslexic or not!), or she may fail the course. So I’d really appreciate any suggestions for training/practice techniques that we can try right away.

She is currently in the first semester of theory (finishing up 2-voice species counterpoint in a week or so and moving on to basic chord structures) and aural skills (just started a unit with first substantial focus on melodic dictation, using Karpinski’s protonotation-to-musical-notation method). Any suggestions specific to that would be amazing. But anything relating to dyslexia and musical notation, musical instruction, solfege, dictation, etc. would be a big help. And if any of you with insights want to talk over coffee at SMT, that would be wonderful.


Kris Shaffer
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Charleston Southern University


  • There are several resources to be found on our website. Check out the Ad Hoc Committee on Disabilities Issues (under Administration) and the special interest group DISMUS (under Societies and Interest Groups). The latter offers a panel of experts you can talk with directly. I’ve taught dyslexic students and it’s a challenge. But it is possible, once the student understands the problem, to make great strides and even overcome the difficulties!

Deborah Stein
Music Theory Department
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

  • I have been tutoring a dyslexic opera major in aural skills for the past 3 years, and am also collaborating on a research project investigating whether the multi-modal demands of opera training may ameliorate the learning challenges faced by singers with LDs. Your observation of the paucity of resources and research on the particular challenges faced by adult dyslexic musicians is accurate, unfortunately, with the exception of a case study by Sylvie Hebert et al. published in Music Perception in 2007. (I’d be delighted if anyone could tell me of any more recent research, but that is the only one I’m aware of.) I would recommend Miles and Westcombe’s Music and Dyslexia: Opening New Doors, since it does make reference to adult dyslexic musicians, both in post-secondary institutions and in their professional lives. The book is very expensive, but you can order the unabridged audiobook version on CDs for $34.95. Some specific recommendations I’ve seen have included printing music onto blue paper, or thickening the middle line of the staff, or colour-coding the top and bottom lines. If you’d like to meet for coffee at SMT, please contact me off-list as I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned from working with this student. Overall, I believe British post-secondary music institutions such as the RCM are much better at addressing their LD students than we are in North America. The good news is that while the problems may seem insurmountable at first, dyslexics can make progress if they are given the time and not thrust into a classroom situation. It’s best if the student can focus on a limited number of tasks per session, and work towards completing tests across multiple sessions rather than all at once. It takes a great deal of patience on the part of both student and tutor, and enough sensitivity on the tutor’s part to recognize when the student’s frustration has reached a level where it’s more constructive to suspend that task for the day and work on something else for a while. It’s also really important to break down every task into the smallest possible steps, and tell the student whenever you notice the slightest improvement, however small it might seem in relation to the overall course requirements. I look forward to reading others’ responses to your question.

Good luck to you and your student,

Laurel Parsons, Ph.D.
Tutor, Music and Humanities
Quest University Canada
3200 University Blvd.
Squamish, BC
VB8 0N8

  • Laurel, A few years ago Isabelle Peretz presented a case study of an “music” conservatory student who had AP — very unusual case. As I recall, the student could sing solfege correctly but when singing simple tunes to a text, the tune was a complete jangle & he was not aware of it. I suggested that the explanation could lie in interference between the language & music centers. I don’t know what became of this study, or whether it was published.

    So: there MIGHT be interference effects involving music and language —
    a music educator is in a good position to find out. Your student might have good performance on non-verbal tasks (as Finn suggested, singing “la” rather than names) vs. the name-retrieval issues that classical solfege adds to the general problem of looking at a piece of music and figuring out what it sounds like. In that case, it would be rather unfair to challenge her pursuit of music with an irrelevant obstacle.

    — eliot

    Eliot Handelman
    CIRMMT, Montreal

  • Eliot Handelman wrote:”So: there MIGHT be interference effects involving
    music and language — ”  I needn’t go into details, but while I have taught my own young children “fixed do” since birth (and a little before) I myself struggle with connecting the singing of numbers or syllables to pitches. Going a step beyond that, I simply do not hear words when set to music or recited in verse, I must have them printed in front of me and read along for me to understand. While I have never been diagnosed as dyslexic, I do have issues a lifelong (41 years now) visual impairment (both strabismus and amblyopia (left eye)) and a few other peculiarities (ambidextrous, dominant left for writing and throwing, dominant right for batting, golfing and playing bass & guitar). I was not aware that I did not have binocular vision and normal depth perception until my early 30s, I just figured I was a really slow but careful reader. (incidentally this is probably why I earned my undergrad in Philosophy and Classical Languages and enjoy paleographical research…) With regard to sight singing, I have discovered a connection between my left hand and musical intervals. that is, my left hand will subconsciously finger the intervals as I sing.

K. Christian McGuire,
Instructor of Music History and Music Theory
Studio Artist: Electric Bass
Director of Improv in Music Ensembles
Augsburg College
Music Department
2211 Riverside Avenue
Mpls MN 55454

  • One place to start might be to look at the pedagogy of mathematics and how they handle teaching the fundamentals to students with dyslexia. That’s a rich (and well-funded) research area. I’ve sent an email to a math education colleague of mine to ask if there are any good sources for this, and I’ll let you know what I hear back from him. I’ve found that research on how children learn mathematics tends to be much more applicable to how college students learn music theory than one might suspect! There are several different types of dyslexia — phonological and spatial being two that would be most important for music — and it would be important to figure out which one(s) your student is dealing with, as they would manifest themselves in the form of different errors (i.e., phonological would mix up instructions or reverse letter names, whereas spatial mix up ascending and descending lines, for example). I currently have a student who has primarily the phonological version — as he’s telling himself instructions, he’ll get his steps mixed up or just say the wrong thing, which then becomes the “truth”. “Okay, so a step above C is B … ” — he knows full well that B is below C, but he meant to say D, and everything gets messed up from there. Working with students step-by-step can help you — and them! — identify where their problems are and what parts of the process they need to watch out for. Even before you are given testing accommodations, you can start working with your student to find out where her primary difficulties are, and with luck you’ll be able to start encouraging a workflow that will help her.

Leigh van Handel, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Kris responds:

  • Thanks for the email and for the advice to look at the pedagogy of mathematics. Most of what I’ve seen so far on dyslexia and music addresses reading notation (which is a struggle for my student, but not the fundamental and biggest problem) and the instruction of performance, rather than theory and aural skills. Given her struggles with number and letter symbols (note names, intervals, solfege syllables, scale degrees), material on dyslexia and math pedagogy may be very helpful. I’ll check it out. For any others who may have had similar experiences with insights to share, here are a few more details: She is definitely struggling with reading the staff, as well as differentiating pitches on the keyboard, because of the black and white; she also has severe difficulty (more than most students) with interval inversions and with composing counterpoints below a CF (usually inverting the intervals or the direction of resolution). Her biggest issues are in aural skills, however. Solfege is very difficult, and almost completely useless for her. She transcribes a melody’s solfege as “do re mi” for example, but then notates the pitches E D C and often can’t find the error when asked. When singing Karpisnki’s “sequentials” (e.g., the pattern do-re-mi-do transposed to each step of the scale: do re mi do | re mi fa re | . . . ), she memorizes the pitch patterns separate from the solfege patterns, and frequently combines one sequential’s pitch pattern with another’s solfege pattern (or with the pattern for the descending sequential) without noticing that she did it. This happens frequently with patterns in her melodies as well. Her other big problem is the ability to comprehend, or even repeat, a series of instructions that involve solfege or numbers (scale degrees, intervals, etc.), though she can remember a series of verbal instructions fairly well if numbers and symbols are not involved. She seems to have an incredible memory, though, and has made use of that i compensating for some of her difficulties in other areas. The biggest question I’m dealing with right now is whether solfege is the best way for her to learn this material, and how to teach it to her in a way that she can learn and that will be effective in learning the concepts. We’re experimenting with colored staves and off-white paper for the time being, to see if that helps some of the reading/analysis/writing issues. But solfege is the big difficulty for her that I haven’t found literature on yet. Does anyone have any experience working with that?

Kris Shaffer
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Charleston Southern University


  • As a dyslexic who was made to do (fixed do) solfege for years, it never became a useful exercise. For prepared tests, I would deduce the pitches and the solfege names separately and try to remembered both sequences correctly at the same time. With different staffs and the effect of key signatures thrown in the mix, on the spot sight reading ended up being guesswork. I was lucky to have sympathetic teachers who recognized that I was musically capable despite these particular performances. If only the people running auditions were always so sympathetic…This problem was extremely frustrating. At the time, I was a very good sight reader when in a choral context and could even correct my professional section lead a few times per rehearsal. But that experience did not help when staring at new sheet music while someone played a starting pitch. It also did not appear to relate much with my sight-reading (frustrations) on piano or bassoon. I don’t know if this would help your student, but tonal sight reading was sometimes made easier with little more context, such as a short cadential progression. And for those situations where sight reading mattered (i.e. outside of the class room,) singing in a church choir for a year was a much more constructive (and comfortable) preparation than struggling with the extra cognitive load of solfege names. I’m not the only student who, at the end of four years’ training, could not find solfege helpful. The names were never more than a distraction to the task of getting the intended notes off of the page and into my ear. For her sake, I hope you consider letting her sing on ‘la’; it sounds like she has enough challenges to face already.

Finn Upham,
PhD student, Music Technology, NYU
(B. Mus, Music theory, McGill University)

  • I found your post particularly interesting because I “diagnosed” several dyslexic students in my aural training courses over the years. I sent each of them to the appropriate Ohio State office for official testing, and then did whatever I was told to do (individual testing, longer time for tests, etc.) once the diagnosis was confirmed. I remember working with some of these students individually too, but no more than I worked with any other student who was struggling in the course. The bulk of the work with the students was handled by the experts who regularly worked with dyslexic students from all areas of the university. After all, especially for a college student who is being diagnosed with dyslexia for the first time, the work they have to do is not just limited to music courses. Also, at Ohio State, individual instructors could only make the specific course changes the official office allowed, so for instance, if the course required the students to use solfege, as mine did, the dyslexic students were also required to use it. The diagnosis is scary at first, but in every case, the students were relieved to find out why they had always had more difficulty in school than it seemed like they should have, and that there was something they could do about it. That’s not to say life suddenly became easy for them, but it’s a wonderful thing to find out there’s a good reason you seemed to be an under-achiever in your school work, and to know that your full potential is likely much greater than most people—including you—thought it could possibly be. But the real reason I’m writing is that for many years, I have worked closely with a very successful musician and teacher (master’s degree in music theory, ABD in Music Education, and has taught both at the university level) who is dyslexic. Her 16-year-old daughter, who is also an excellent musician (singer and viola player) is also dyslexic. I asked my friend for input from a firsthand, personal perspective, and here is her response: I was/am a big fan of solfege in the wide word of aural training/sight singing. Also used Curwen/Kodaly hand signs, and used to practice singing intervals, with hand signs showing the direction. The physical movement helped me to get a feel for the up and down direction of the sounds. Also needed to have the ability to fully concentrate, so a distraction-free zone to practice and test.My daughter has very good ears and relies on those when she gets tripped up in the music reading world. She is also a big fan of repetition. We have both used the little strips with colored film when reading text/music: The more expensive version of figuring out which you liked (which helped me pick blue) is…. Went to a workshop about this as well. Oh and tell the student to get a Yoda statue–he is our patron saint, “Read, you will!” Hope this helps. And I hope you have experts at your university who can work the miracles our Ohio State folks always did.

All the best,
Ann K. Blombach, MacGAMUT Music Software, Inc.

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