For many, seeing is believing.
However, junior Alexandra Krauth has the ability to believe in and fulfill her passion for music without any sight.
Krauth is a member of the Education Honors Society, the National Association for Music Education, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Keene chapter for the National Federation for the Blind.
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Additionally, she auditioned and is now a part of the choir group Canticum Novum, she has learned to surf, has her own YouTube account, and tutors ear training.
“I have always loved music ever since I was little. My mom and dad would always play lots of music around the house, and I probably started singing since I could talk. I also started playing the piano when I was three, and so I’ve just loved music all my life,” Krauth said.
When asked about what challenges she faces in school, Krauth replied, “When I’m singing in a group the one thing that can be challenging is that I don’t know what the conductor is showing, but it’s generally not a challenge because there are other people around me who are singing my part or other voice parts so I just listen to what’s going on around me for cues.”
Owen Davis of the Office of Disability Services works with Krauth both in and out of the classroom and creates Braille sheet music for her to use. Davis said, “She loves to make music with people, and I mean that’s really the heart of teaching music, is wanting to make music with other people, wanting to show people how to make music.”
“One thing Alex and I have worked really hard on this year is an ability for her to conduct, which is, of course, entirely visual and so for a blind person that’s a huge step. It’s like asking a blind person to be in an art class or a dance class. How do you explain what something looks like to someone who doesn’t know what looks like means?” Davis said.
Music Professor Sandra Howard said, “She holds herself to a very high expectation, which raises the bar for other students around her. She models that really well, since she has perfect pitch and oral skills and hearing the melodies and being able to notate them, I think she keeps other students on their toes that way.”
Howard said Krauth has taught her a number of things, one of them being new teaching skills.
“I think I’m teaching a lot differently now, and I think that’s been helping a lot of the other students too, seeing it and feeling it in different ways. I think I do a lot more thoughtful teaching and it’s probably a lot better for everyone,” she said.
Elaine Ginsberg, director of Canticum Novum, explained that the group performs tricky a capella music. Ginsberg said Krauth “knew all the music by the second rehearsal, so she’s like leading the pack. She knows the music better than anyone and they all have the music in front of them, but she just learned it all by ear and memorized it.”
Howard said another thing she’s learned from Krauth is “not getting frustrated and putting things in a perspective. Seeing that end goal and knowing that what you need to do to get there is not always easy but having that be your rock at the end of the line.” Krauth said she’s grown from her classes and the music itself. “I think the most important thing they’ve taught me is that music is truly universal and anyone can relate to it,” she said.
“It’s been nice to educate people all around the Keene area about what it’s like to be completely blind and to be born that way,” Krauth said.
Davis pointed out that even with music, “It’s just as visual as everything else that we do and then you begin to realize just how completely visual we are as people. Everything that we do, everything that we say, ‘see you later’ is based on the fact that most of our communication is visual or just so many things like that so very many things.”
He furthered that Krauth has been re-working her major and recognizing difficulties she encounters, but made it clear that this experience isn’t completely negative.
“It’s really important for someone to realize those kinds of things, that’s like half of our mission at Office of Disability Services, helping people realize these things about themselves, come to that conclusion on their own and then they grow as a person.”
Krauth not only tackles difficulties in regards to her major, but waves with the help of a surfboard and Amp Surf. Amp Surf teaches beginning surf to disabled people.
Krauth began surfing in sixth grade after hearing the Beach Boys album and has been surfing ever since. “I think the goal of Amp Surf is to cause individuals to believe in their abilities instead of being discouraged by their disabilities.”
Ginsberg said, “I admire how self-sufficient she is. I would say we could all learn a lesson from that. If somebody can do what she can do, those of us who have all of our senses, we have no excuse.”
Krauth said she hopes to become a teacher for elementary schools or open a private voice or piano studio depending on what the future brings.
“In addition to my dreams of becoming a music educator, I believe my ultimate goal is to show all people that even though I’m blind, I can still do many of the same activities that the sighted people, the sighted world, can do just in a modified way,” Krauth said.
Davis furthered on her future and said, “I think she could be an incredibly successful instructor for promising kids. I think that there’s so much room for people who really want it to learn and flourish under her.”
“I hope that people see her as Alex and not the visual impairment first, that’s just Alex and everyone has their own series of steps they go through and she has a certain step, that she’s just a person,” Howard said.
Davis said, “She’s a really extraordinary individual and I would say and I think most people would agree it’s been a life altering experience to have known her.”
Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at email@example.com