- Title: WEST BANK: Talented blind musician teaches music to blind students
- Date: 22nd June 2010
- Summary: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (MAY 19, 2010) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF AL-ALA'EIA SCHOOL FOR BLIND PEOPLE
- Embargoed: 7th July 2010 13:00
- Topics: Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA8YUUE7K64F0YPO9MZNL1V4OZA
- Story Text: At a small school in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, a group of boys take up a variety of instruments. They play a piece slowly and gracefully, following their teacher's instructions.
The teacher is Nidal Hanani, a blind music teacher who lost his sight when he was two due to a high fever. The budding musicians from different parts of the West Bank are students at the al-Alae'ia School for the Blind.
Al-Alae'ia is a state-run school which opened in 1938 in Hebron as a response to the demand from a blind Palestinian, Sobhi al-Dijani. The institution then moved to Bethlehem in 1993.
Hanani says projects like music classes are vital to integrating blind children into the wider society by giving them means for self expression as well as a useful skill. He says this is especially the case in the West Bank and other parts of the Middle East, where the blind and otherwise disabled are highly stigmatised by society.
"This feeling gave me the power to challenge and prove myself in the society, to challenge the traditions. My disability has forced me to challenge the surrounding conditions because it is an honourable career for any person and especially so for blind people who have limited job opportunities. I found that music is a form of expression that help me to strengthen my personality and it has become my career," he told Reuters Television.
Hanani teaches his students to read music from Braille music notes, but also how to play music by tone.
"As a blind man, my students and I must memorise the notes. If you notice, I teach them by making them listen to the notes (rather than reading from a music sheet). This way they memorise the tune and they also develop a keen musical ear, so they become able to hear a tune and store it in their memory, and they can listen to a piece of music, and, if it's familiar to them, they will become able to automatically play it," he said.
Hanani, a father of three, says music has helped his blind students and has made a huge difference to their lives. He says music is therapeutic, helps children learn, and is beneficial to their mental health. Many of his students have had to struggle to learn music, but have found it well worth the effort.
He teaches students a variety of instruments including the piano, violin and drums.
"I have big ambitions (to set-up a music school for the blind), even though many blind people succeeded at studying at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Bethlehem or Ramallah. But their problem is that they do not have a blind musician to teach the blind students how to read music, so they usually ask me to do it. It would be wonderful to have a special (music) institute for the blind," Hanani said.
The forty-year-old musician teaches his students classical Arabic music pieces as well as Arabic songs dealing with themes of politics, tradition and romance. He holds a master's degree in music therapy and a BA in social work.
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