Orla O’Sullivan Honored For Work Teaching Music To Deaf & Blind
Orla O’Sullivan, a deaf and blind music teacher from Frankfield in Cork, has taught scores of hearing and non-hearing students, from beginners up to diploma level for the last 20 years. She’s now getting recognition for a unique training method that she developed entirely on her own.
“I teach music in a standard, normal way,” O’Sullivan remarked. The difference is in how I prepare. I memorize everything, even the questions that are normally asked by students at the various levels.
“With my hearing aids on and with close lip reading I can usually make out what is being said. As regards the music, again, with my hearing aids on, I can hear/feel some of the notes. The notes I cannot hear, I hear in my imagination. As regards sight, what I see is normal for me. I can only imagine what a person with perfect vision can see.”
O’Sullivan, who started teaching deaf children at a local primary school in the mid 1990, now uses a purpose-built classroom in her home for hearing and non-hearing pupils, and believes all schoolchildren should be given the option to learn music, regardless of disability. O’Sullivan was among nine people with hearing loss commended at the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards in the Alexandra Hotel in Dublin.
The workplace award winner was left profoundly deaf and vision impaired when given a drug after she contracted double pneumonia at six weeks old. She said her mother noticed that, as a young baby, she reacted to certain kinds of music, including vibrations from piano keys. After her first music lesson at six, she spent most of her childhood playtime practising on her piano.
O’Sullivan revealed teaching music to deaf pupils is much more difficult and demanding for the teacher and the pupil, but as a deafblind teacher she feels she is the best qualified to do it.