Yeaji Kim's fingers dance across the piano keys with the grace and precision one would expect from such a highly accomplished pianist.
Kim, who was born with limited vision and has been completely without sight since age 13, has faced difficulty when discussing printed scores at an advanced level with her sighted teachers. Braille scores didn't quite bridge the gap, with teacher and student often needing to interpret for one another. And the ability to discuss music at a high level is vital to Kim; she's pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Music.
On a Wordpress site that describes Kim's studies, UW-Madison Professor Todd Welbourne says, "Blind pianists in the classical world need braille to succeed. They don't get very far learning things by ear."
But Braille has its limits. According to the same site, Professor Welbourne says there are some important musical elements that don't translate well in Braille, e.g. timing, piano pedal markings and other performance notation.
That's why Kim has worked to develop a method of teaching music that works for teachers and students alike, regardless of sight. It's the basis of her doctoral thesis, which she'll complete this month.
Here's a video that describes Kim's project, which was brought to our attention by our friends at the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra:
Read more about Kim's project as well as details about her life as a performer and a profile of her service dog, Chan Mi on this dedicated Wordpress site.