The Magic of Music and What it Means to Me – By Amanda Pudelka

Listen to the audio recording here.

Editor’s note: Amanda won one of seven appreciation prizes in the youth age group of last year’s Onkyo Braille competition. In her essay, she mentions National Braille Music Camp, which seems as valuable to her as it has been to me and many others, not just for the music, but for the chance to be together with so many peers. Thanks to the pandemic, Braille Music Camp has been cancelled two years in a row. Hang in there Amanda.

I am 15 years old and I am in year 9 at Footscray High School in Melbourne, Australia. At age three I developed Juvenile Arthritis which attacked my eyes rendering me legally blind by the age of eight. While I use braille for school and leisure activities, my next goal in braille is to learn the braille music code. I have chosen this topic because I love music and hope to pursue a career in music and performance after I finish my studies. Music is everywhere around us. It is a big part of the world that we live in and a big part of my life.

Some of my first memories of music was when I started dancing. When I was five years old I asked my mum if I could participate in dance lessons so she enrolled me in a nearby dance studio. I learned many different dancing styles like ballet, jazz, tap dancing and glee classes. I loved moving to the music, getting to dress up in sparkly outfits and performing at dance concerts. Because I learned many different styles of dance, I was introduced to many different styles of music and this is where my love for music started. Looking back on it, I cannot imagine my childhood without dance and still thank my mum for enrolling me when I asked. My next wish is to start singing lessons. I started singing in the shower – which by the way has excellent acoustics. I love singing because it is a way of expressing my thoughts and emotions without having to speak the words. Singing for me is an outlet, if I have a rough day, I always feel better after singing my heart out (it’s also why my showers are very long).

Currently, I attend Greentree drama classes every Saturday and it’s the highlight of my week. Being in a theatre environment and surrounded by people who feel the same way about performing as I do just gives me a real sense of belonging. This year my school is doing the “Mary Poppins” musical production, I was very excited to be chosen for a part in the ensemble, as well as a speaking role. I feel being in a musical is a truly special experience, because the audience is able to see a story being told through singing, dance, music and acting. Performing on stage transports me away from the real world, which can be really hard sometimes.

Being vision impaired, I cannot see expressions on other people’s faces or body language. Through music and singing I can understand people’s emotions without needing to see them. One day I hope to go to Broadway in New York to see both “The Lightning Thief” and “Hamilton” musicals. I know being able to see these musicals live in the iconic Broadway theatre will have a special meaning for me.

For the past three years I have attended National Braille Music Camp in Mittagong, Australia. Braille Music Camp is a music camp for students who are blind or low vision braille users who come together from all around Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Thailand. We spend one fun week learning, playing and performing music. During the week, part of our time is spent learning braille music and the rest is dedicated to rehearsing in choir as well as in bands, orchestra and solo artists. On the final night of camp, we put on a concert for our families and the community. This camp allows me to meet others who have the same love for music that I have, I have made great friends at music camp and look forward to seeing them every year and performing with them.

Another big part of music for me is playing the piano and the guitar. I am hoping to start instrumental music lessons to improve my skill as I am currently self-taught and still have much to learn about playing instruments. I want to learn how to play these instruments because I want to be able to both play and sing my favourite songs by myself and would love to write some of my own songs one day. I have been learning how to use the Braille Music Editor software at my Support Skills program. This helps me to learn how to compose music for my music classes in school. I have chosen music every year as an elective and will continue to do so in the future.

Music lifts me up and gives me energy to do my best. It doesn’t matter what I decide to do in the future but music is always going to be a part of my life. If nothing else, I’ll always have my long showers.

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