Blind from birth, Yeaji Kim learned to play piano at the age of five. Instead of feeling isolated from her peers, Kim formed strong connections with both blind and sighted musicians. Her experiences inspired her to pursue a career in music education and travel from South Korea to UW-Madison to earn her doctorate from the School of Music. One day, while struggling to play a piece, Kim and one of her professors discovered that the conventional score indicated that some notes should be “beamed,” or connected, in a way that wasn’t communicated on the braille sheet music. This small but vital discrepancy led Kim to develop Tactile Stave Notation, a universal system that could be the bridge between sighted and blind musicians.
Kim’s method renders sheet music in three dimensions by slightly elevating the staff and notes above the surface of the page. And her revolutionary process has created a new opportunity for collaboration between disciplines: a team of graduate and undergraduate students from UW-Madison’s Department of Mechanical Engineering are brainstorming ways to mass-produce a 3-D printing process for the system.
Thanks to Kim’s solution, blind and sighted musicians are finally on the same page.