Taryn Galow has busy fingertips. During the day, the bassist for the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra puts them to use working as a Braillist for the Englewood Public School District. And during her off hours, she’s busy plucking and playing the strings of her instrument with our orchestra or a few of the musical collectives she’s joined.
Taryn, who’s had a lifelong love of music and plays the piano and bass, spends her days working to translate textbooks and other reading materials into Braille documents for students who are blind or vision impaired.
It’s an interesting mix of using her senses, though her work tools and her musical instruments aren’t that different, she said. In fact, Taryn began working as a Braillist after a group of special education teachers who focused on vision impaired students pointed out the similarities between the Braillewriter and the piano. She had been working as a special education paraeducator and was looking for a new challenge. Learning the code for Braille was just the thing.
It took her roughly a year to learn Braille, which was done primarily through a correspondence course through the National Federation of the Blind. That was five years ago.
“It’s a lot like music,” she said. “You have to keep practicing and practicing and reading up on the code.”
She is currently certified by the state as a Braillist, and she is working on a certification through the Library of Congress, which requires her to translate a 35-page manuscript, based on any literary book of her choosing. Taryn chose “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury, and she will be finalizing and perfecting her submission in the coming months.
Once she obtains her Library of Congress certification for Literary Braille, Taryn’s plan is to fully learn the music braille code.
Her days now entail working with two students, one who is in kindergarten and one who is a senior in high school. She works with them in the classroom setting and then translates their materials into Braille for them.
She’s in the beginning process of creating a concerto based on the sounds the embosser makes. “The machine which creates the braille makes really cool and intricate rhythms,” she said. “And I want to find a way to incorporate those sounds into music.”
Because of her passion for music, Taryn fills her time outside of work practicing and playing with as many people and groups as she can. In addition to her twice weekly practices and weekly performances with us, she also plays with a newly formed bluegrass band and other collectives.
“If I don’t incorporate music into my life every day, I feel ill,” she said.
Bands on repeat these days: The Beatles, Eddie Vedder, The Goat Rodeo
First concert: John Williams with the Boston Pops (they all dressed up in Batman t-shirts)
Name for her instrument: Harvey
Top: Taryn at a DPO dress rehearsal
Middle: Taryn (second from left) with coworkers at Confidence Camp for Visually Impaired and Blind Kids
Bottom: Taryn at the filming of our Battle of the Batons Super Bowl Video Mashup against the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra
By Meg Satrom. Meg is a poet, journalist and a lawyer.