"The reason for launching this charity", says Tony Rodwell, Lead Trustee of 'Yes I can!’, a charity devoted to providing access for Blind and Visually Impaired people, primarily children and young adults, to learn to play a brass or woodwind instrument, "was to afford this disadvantage social group the opportunity to enjoy all the emotions which music engenders and at the same time provide an increased skill set which could be used socially or professionally. Thereby, making the learning of a musical instrument mutually inclusive."
Tony says he first learned about this lack of opportunities for the Blind and Visually impaired during a conversation with his life-long friend, Chris Waters. A talented musician in his own right and a music teacher with more than 30 years’ experience of teaching a broad spectrum of pupils; including some who were visually challenged. Chris had also been awarded the prestigious Classic fM UK Peripatetic Music Teacher of the Year.
In England in 2017, there were 26,300 children and young people supported by local authority Visual Impairment (Source: Royal National Institute for the Blind Children & Young Persons Sight Loss most recent figures).
However, there are a few very small pockets of lessons offered for those who want to join main-stream instrument lessons and save for New College Worcester, an independent boarding and day school for blind or partially sighted students aged 11 to 19 catering for around 80 students that is it; nothing open and inviting and nothing to help primary school children from the age of 8 The realistic starting age for a child learning a Brass or Woodwind instrument according to Dr Robert Thomson - Dentist and Wind Musician based in Brechin, Angus, Scotland.
Searching the Web for "Brass and Woodwind lessons for blind and visually-impaired children in the UK" demonstrates the complete lack of facilities and opportunities for such children. Even London's Royal College of Music's Junior Department facility for tuition for all brass and woodwind instruments for blind children on Saturdays is on hold.
As a consequence of that conversation Tony and Chris joined forces to launch ‘Yes I Can!’ In February 2019. “I felt that with Chris’s passion for teaching and the experience and expertise he could offer,” says Tony, “that combined with my decades of experience in International Marketing and PR which had involved travelling globally we could create an organisation which will fill the current void and make learning an instrument accessible to everyone irrespective of their challenges.
There are, of course, as the duo rapidly found out a myriad of extremely worthwhile small charities in the UK, as well as the Household Names, all seeking to create the greater awareness and thereby increase the funding they receive. Consequently, despite their enthusiasm and passion for the project rejection is something which, as trustees of a charity, goes with the territory and to which one needs become hardened reflected Tony.
Nevertheless, with rejection comes stoicism. The persistence of the two Trustees brought the Charity to the attention of Lord David Blunkett who told them he commended their efforts as this is an absolutely crucial element in developing confidence and expression as well as helping socially. Furthermore, he offered several 'door opening' introductions which proved invaluable.
Yes I Can! is now partnered with the Blatchington Court Trust, an independent, impartial, financially secure charity established in 1995 who are working to promote and support the needs of blind and partially sighted people under the age of 30 who live in Sussex.
The Charity is also aligned with 4Sight Vision who invited Chris to attend their Fun Day on 26th October at their centre in Bognor Regis to give blind and visually impaired children, young people and adults of any age the opportunity to try woodwind and brass instruments with a view to learning them. Seminars are also held to teach existing Brass & Woodwind teachers how to teach blind and visually impaired children by providing the teachers with audio resources to aid the pupil tuition process; with fun being central to the learning curve for the young musicians and their teachers
These 'Taster Days' as they are called are proving extremely popular with visually challenged people of all ages enthusiastically embracing the idea that it is possible for them to become competent musicians.
There is, of course, a downside to all of this as Chris explained. “The only difference in teaching blind/visually-impaired children to play Brass or Woodwind instruments,” he says, “is that the notation input is of course not read but listened to, being the tried and tested audible input. The same being true for sighted pupils! It is the cost of specialist musical arrangements and backing tracks, together with audio tuition resources that are central to the successes in teaching blind and visually impaired pupils Chris went on to say for which we need funding.
The Charity receives Sponsorship from only one source presently, ‘internetreeds.com’, which is solely owned by Tony who decided to continue trading albeit having officially retired from business and closing his office in the Joiners Shop at Chatham Dockyard.
“We’re hopeful,” said Tony, “the effort and financial input we’ve made during 2019 will bear fruit in the forthcoming year.”
For More information contact: -
Yes I Can! Charity
96 Featherby Road
Kent ME8 6 AW
Registered Charity 1182001