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Categories: June/July 2022, MUSIC

Experiencing is believing

How the Georgia Blind Academy embraces Macon music
By Lisa Mayfield Spence

Music has long been known as a source of comfort, excitement and relaxation as well as a form of personal expression. These benefits are true to perhaps an even greater extent among those who are visually impaired.

The Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB) in Macon has a long-standing tradition of recognition for its fine arts programming; one-act play competitions, visual arts, band and choral music are all available to serve every student.

Catie Holloway, music director at GAB, has continued the legacy of musical arts over the last several years, from producing fantastic musicals to community performances and her most recent venture, the establishment of the Drum Corps.

“Ms. Holloway accepts myriad invitations for our students to perform in public as part of their expanded core curriculum experience and for community engagement,” explained Dr. Cindy Gibson, GAB superintendent. “Her expansion of the music curriculum has hooked engagement of both students and audiences.”

“We are fortunate and acknowledge the rich musical atmosphere that Macon has to offer,” Holloway said. “Our students have performed at many Mercer University basketball games, at churches, Rotary and Macon Morning Music club meetings and more.”

GAB students also have attended performances by the Mercer Singers, McDuffie Center for Strings, Macon Pops, Theatre Macon, Macon Little Theatre and Douglass Theater and have enjoyed Rock Candy Music Tours and the Allman Brothers Museum, Holloway said. “GAB has historically ensured that students attend local events that include music and other performing arts,” Gibson said. “Our students, who enroll from all over the state of Georgia, have had countless red carpet musical experiences in Macon.”

Music is an integral part of the GAB curriculum, with several music courses offered, including General Music, Music Appreciation, Beginning and Advanced Chorus, Music Theory, Music Braille and Beginning and Advanced Drumline. Music students have ample opportunities to perform for their peers, teachers and even Department of Education members. “Student performances are set as project-based learning objectives for students to achieve,” Holloway explained.

A few years ago, Holloway established a drumline at GAB, initially to encourage the reading of music, at the urging of interested students. “You can’t have a successful music program without interested students that love what they are doing,” she said. The drumline has boosted morale for both the students and the school as a whole.

“If you think about it, the first instrument a baby learns to love is a drum,” Holloway explained. “The drumline has encouraged more students to learn to read music braille and large print music and learn how to adapt it to the songs they learn.” Many of the drum cadences GAB students learn are very difficult and have challenging rhythms, she said. “Through the basis of learning to read music, students experience success.”

Looking forward, Gibson anticipates increased community alliances for GAB students with local musical groups. “I see our students performing with sighted peers in collaboration with the Bibb County School District and community arts organizations, as well as additional opportunities to attend events in the Central Georgia area and beyond,” she said.

“Our music program grows and changes from year to year,” Holloway continued. “It is continuously adapting to our students’ strengths and interests. It may be somewhat different from year to year, but our music program will always be fun, energetic, rigorous and encourage our students’ love of music.”