Thai Blind Orchestra for Blind Youth

Thai Blind Orchestra for blind youth is made up of young musicians and managed by a gentleman whose daytime job is a manager for an elephant conservation centre.

This is one of a few initiatives for blind youth in the country to learn musical instruments.

BBC news was fortunate enough to meet these blind youth at a national park in North East Thailand.

The orchestra for blind youth was established in 2014 from an idea of classical musician Alongkot Chukaew. He teaches disabled children through use of audible aids and natural surroundings. The children were introduced to braille to be able to read music. They get taught individually to memorise the positions of their fingers when playing instruments.

Musicians are aged between 9 and 18 years and are blind, visually impaired and have multiple disabilities. It’s the country’s first orchestra if it’s kind. In Thailand, devoted Buddhists believe in Karma and attitudes towards disability is that those should surrender and accept their fate. The Thai Blind Orchestra was created to encourage children through music and change negative perception of people who are disabled.

Joe, is a passionate cellist and admits at first it wasn’t easy and wanted to quit.

“But when I realised that others could do it, I gave it another try”

According to official figures of 64 million population, Thailand has 1.8 million disabled people and 180,000 are blind.

State provision for the disabled is poor because of the karmic stigma attached to people with disabilities.

The instrument are donated to the orchestra by professional classic musician Khao Yai who looks after elephants at the national park.

This idea came when blind students met their maestro at conservation classes at the park. He taught using audio aids and his guitar which caught the attention of the children.

He asked his music teachers to play different instruments while encouraging the children to follow the sound they enjoyed most.

It wasn’t long after that Alongkot introduced a Braille system for students to read classical music.

Alongkot shows the children how to position their fingers and memorise notes to play the correct sounds.

Alongkot spoke about the experience:

“It was hard because they cannot see the demonstration of where to put their fingers or hold bows…but it was fun”

He went on to add:

“some people might not like their performance but the kids are happy and have fun with it”

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