However bleak it may seem, for most of us,the scenario of having to live without one of our basic senses, our sight, not only that it’s possible, but it can also be pleasant; life can be full of color, the sun can shine from within the soul and light can lie in the heart. Dan Brad and the blind children from the Catharsis Braşov Association have proven that it’s indeed possible, as well as Cătălin Petrescu and the children from Conil Association who, in spite of their severe sight impairments, learn and succeed in playing musical instruments.
Same as artist Dan Brad, musician Cătălin Petrescu works within the Voluntar de Profesie program, in order to support those who have always wanted to work for non-profit organizations.
“At the moment, I am working with 10 children. One of them has great sight difficulties, and,because of the medical procedures he has to undergo, he is only available once a month”, Cătălin Petrescu told us, who in every day life is a drummer and violinist for the rock band Kratos.
Four of the children take canto lessons, two of them are guitarists – one of them plays classic guitar and the other is learning bass guitar. One girl studies piano and canto, and two other children cover percussion.
One of the most moving cases is a child who plays the drums, but by means of a keyboard, because “it’s the best and only way he can play”.
“The fact that many of these children are partially or completely blind has been a great challenge for me”, recounts Cătălin Petrescu.
The young man has befriended these children, and has been working with some of them since before enrolling in the Voluntar de Profesie program. For instance, he has known Tudor, who is 12 and was born blind, for two years. “He is an incredibly talented person and so passionate about music. I’ve known him since the folk rock camp I organized; the theme was the integration of children with disabilities and those who come from underprivileged environments, camp where he had his first encounter with percussion instruments.
It was love at first sound and it was obvious from the beginning that this child is special”, says Cătălin Petrescu.
The child to whom he is teaching drums is an introvert and refuses contact with other people, but when it comes to music, his entire attitude changes. He loves the sounds given off by drums, cymbals, bells, tambourines.
“I have noticed he is fascinated with being able to change the sound an instrument makes, by using it in different ways. There is however an interpretation barrier”, Cătălin Petrescu sadly observes.
“It’s difficult for a blind person to play the drums too, especially if he isn’t in good physical shape, because it takes strength for the sound to manifest itself vigorously.
It so happens that the room in which we rehearse also has a cabinet piano. When Tudor sat in front of it and started to strike a perfect beat, in harmony with what we were doing on the guitar, I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought it was an automated rhythm, generated by the keyboard, but it was him and him alone”.
“This child is a genius”, says Cătălin Petrescu. He has become attached to Tudor and the ease with which he can execute and memorize almost any part.
Another case that has left a powerful impression on our professional volunteer is that of Mădălin, a blind child who plays the guitar. “Mădălin is acomplete artist and an absolute romantic”, says Cătălin Petrescu. He is a child who doesn’t take the easy way out. “Unlike 90% of his school mates, Mădălin isn’t interested in Facebook, but solely in the keen desire to learn how to play guitar. It’s an ambition, and I know this firsthand, that takes all of your time and attention”, says Cătălin.
They have come to get along (musically) so well, that Cătălin sometimes forgets his student is blind. The challenge is to discover a method through which Mădălin could learn the pieces more easily. We are referring here to guitar sheet music, called tabulatures (or tabs, for short). “I am still in search of a solution so that Mădălin can learn on his own, without anyone’s help, which turns into a necessity as the pieces become more and more complex.”
„This entire experience has meant more to me than I would’ve imagined. First of all, I chose to put my law career on hold when I started working with disabled people.” The young man who is saying all this is 22 years old.
”It came as a shock to me when I saw what kind of people I was dealing with, what potential they had, artistically, as well as spiritually. They can set examples for many others,they’re remarkably compassionate and truly honest, traits which are spread rather thin in our society. We have a lot to learn from these wonderful children.”