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Custom music stands

Music is in Rose’s blood. Her parents were in a dance band and toured around the Illawarra when Rose was a child.

In her early twenties, she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was praised by teachers for her amazing ability to play tunes by ear. During her course Rose was given the news that she had Cone Rod Dystrophy, a progressive disease, which in basic terms, causes deterioration of eye sight. This put an end to her dream of becoming a music teacher because in the coming years it would become more difficult to read music.

Rose continued to play music in her spare time but when her mum died ten years ago she lost her appetite for music and her vision became worse.

“I used to write songs and call mum up and play them over the phone for her,” says Rose. “She was always very kind and gave me encouragement. Recently I started getting back into playing the piano but I was bending my back in a painful way because I need to have the music close to my face.”

Rose got in touch with Vision Australia who sent an Occupational Therapist to her house to assess what changes could be made to make her life easier. When Rose told her about the piano she put her in touch with TAD.

TAD volunteer Ken Kirwood came to assess Rose’s situation. “She needed a stand that could be tilted at exactly the correct angle so that she could read the music,” says Ken, a former carpenter, builder and joinery teacher at TAFE. “To do this, I put a hinge at the top so the bottom could tilt upwards. She wanted to still be able to open the top of the piano so I had to suspend the stand over the front. She also needed to have vertical and horizontal movement so there was a lot to think about.”

Rose was delighted with her new stand and asked if Ken could make one for her electric piano too. Ken passed this job to fellow volunteer Col McIntyre who could complete the metal work.

“The main priority with the electric piano was that the stand be portable like the piano, as well as having the music at varying distances from Rose’s eyes,” says Col. “I tried to simplify the job and use the existing support as much as possible and make adjustments. It was challenging because I didn’t have much space to work with because the piano was tightly fitted into a small alcove in the house – but I was very pleased with the simplicity in the end.”

And Rose was thrilled with her new stands, “The guys did everything I wanted. The stand for the electric piano even looks exactly like it should be there.” Now that Rose has her musical enthusiasm back she is planning to try some music teaching. “I want to teach people how to play from ear. I want to introduce them to one key and then work through whole songs with them.”

I feel very blessed. If it wasn’t for the two volunteers from TAD I would have been too frustrated to continue with music. I’d like to thank them for making my own, and other people with disabilities, worlds that much bigger, for widening the parameters. They have sparked a chain reaction and have enabled me to give back by teaching which is wonderful.”

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