“An overwhelming and marvellous experience” is how singer Ria Andriani described her first National Braille Music Camp in 2007.
“I just didn’t know you could sing in a choir like that and we were doing Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and it’s a stunning piece of music and very difficult to sing. I probably understood about one in every ten words,” she said.
Today the Indonesian-born Ria is a member of the Sydney Chamber Choir and a choral scholar at a busy church in Sydney. She also works as a braille music transcriber and proof-reader with Vision Australia.
Inspired by her experience at the camp, Ria decided to go on to study music at a tertiary level and joined various youth and church choirs in Sydney before deciding on a career as a singer.
Ria said as a young blind singer, large choirs provided opportunities to meet new people, but at the same time being the only person with a disability could be quite isolating.
“There’s so many people you could meet, however chances are you will know one or two people there and during your tea break or something you do want to go speak to them, but it’s very hard to find them in the room.”
Ria believes more music and arts organisations should develop a disability action plans to address these issues.
This would involve the organisation looking at its relationship to the person with a disability, both as an audience member and as an artist within the organisation.
In the meantime, Ria’s strongest advice to young singers and musicians who are blind or have low vision is to learn braille.
“Knowing the scores and how the music works is very important.
“If you do want to take your music or singing to a professional level, it does require a lot of things; a lot of time, a lot of your effort, and that’s something that definitely has to be considered, whether it’s worth for you to do that or not, but for me it has been worth it.”