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Professor develops braille symbols to help blind classical singers learn proper enunciation

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Posted at 7:50 AM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 08:53:08-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A professor at Vanderbilt University has created a set of braille symbols to help blind aspiring classical singers pronounce lyrics.

Cherie Montgomery had her first visually impaired student take her class in 2015. She said she did not have the resources to teach him lyric diction.

"This is due to the number of languages and the number of sounds that exist in many languages, and the fact that phonetics do not automatically connect to braille symbols," Montgomery said.

The voice professor came up with a solution and created a new braille phonetic system.

"You can hear the disadvantage when they don't have access to precise pronunciation," she said.

Montgomery’s braille phonetic system is accessible via her textbook, Singer's Diction for Braille Readers, which is available in print, Kindle and braille reader formats. She also created a database of more than 2,000 classical songs transcribed according to her system, and a phonetic chart with visual and tactile symbols.

"[With the chart,] teachers can point to a symbol and say this is the sound you're making [and] I would like to hear for example this sound..." she said.

Montgomery is working with braille instructor at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center Steve Norman to perfect the system.

"I have these resources right under my fingertips and it's the right thing to do," Montgomery said.