- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - When Chris Goodbeer was a graduate student in Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, a friend told him to consider also getting a library science degree.

“It’s very straightforward. You just do the coursework and you graduate,” Goodbeer said. “I just love libraries. Wouldn’t that just be great to work in a library?”

The idea of a library was appealing to Goodbeer. An institution built around sharing resources is something he appreciates.

Goodbeer does work in IU’s Herman B Wells Library, through University Information Technology Services’ Assistive Technology and Accessibility Centers. He has been able to put both his degrees to good use, translating music and text into Braille.

While still a graduate student, Goodbeer said, he was told someone was needed to translate music into Braille for a student.

“So they asked me if I would be interested, and I said sure,” he said.

Goodbeer continued with that graduate assistantship for several years, until graduation. “Then, at the end of that, they still needed someone to do the music and asked me to stay on.”

He had no experience with Braille, but Goodbeer was able to learn the software needed to convert the music. He uses a suite of programs to complete the translation. While he thinks he still has a lot to learn, his background in music has been an asset.

“Because I have graduate course work in music, I have a certain understanding of music theory, even music performance practice; and having sung in many ensembles, I know what is important. Mostly, the theory is very important, and being able to read the various music notation symbols,” Goodbeer said.

For music students who read Braille, a lot of information needs to be conveyed. Most singers are able to follow the line, find the clef and give it a try without much preparation.

“In Braille, it’s linear, and so she has to read through everything. We simplify things. If I’m making a part for a soprano, I only put her vocal line down - unless she requests otherwise - and the text and whatever style notations are there. We make it as simple as possible, so she can possibly read it while performing, as others do,” Goodbeer said.

It would be a little more complicated for a musician who needs both hands to perform. Goodbeer said those musicians would likely need to read the music a few times to memorize a piece before trying to perform it.

He has been certified for Braille transcription by the Library of Congress, but he continues to learn new skills so he can better perform his job.

“I have a plate of things I want to accomplish,” he said.

Music in Braille seems complicated. There are six dots in a Braille cell, with the upper four representing the pitch and the lower two representing the duration. The music must also include other important data, including the octave and expressions.

“There are symbols for all of those, and they’re placed in certain relation to the note,” he explained.

The office does Braille translations for students on all of IU’s campuses, but Goodbeer has never seen someone he’s provided music for perform.

“I do get feedback from them about how it works for them and how the performance went and such, and they seem to be happy with it,” he said.

Communication is important in Goodbeer’s job so that he efficiently provides what the student needs in a timely manner.

“We’re always communicating through emails,” he said, adding that students often will provide guidance as to what information is or isn’t necessary. “There’s a lot of information. They have to read through everything. They can’t glance over it. Sometimes, they want things to be more condensed. Sometimes, they request more information. Often, when I come to something I don’t know, then I’ll just email them or call them up on the telephone and ask how they would want it represented. There’s a lot of communication back and forth.”

Goodbeer said he’s surprised by the way people react when they learn what he does.

“I enjoy the work. I enjoy working music notation on the computer, and I enjoy the puzzle of converting it using whatever I need, whatever software is out there, whatever my training, all together, to make the best score for the student,” he said. “It brings together a lot that I enjoy, and I get to work with music as part of my job.”

Along with music, Goodbeer also transcribes other text necessary for students throughout the university. An example of his work is a calculus problem that he transcribed using Adobe Illustrator.

Sometimes, deadlines can be a bit stressful, but Goodbeer feels a responsibility to do his job quickly and efficiently. Knowing a student has an assignment due that is dependent upon getting the materials on time is something he often thinks about.

“I always empathize. I put myself in their situation. I really would want that material so that I could study a week in advance instead of two days in advance,” he said.

And while he enjoys all of his work, it’s the chance to marry Braille and music that he likes the most. “In this office, we use the phrase ‘leveling the playing field.’ There’s something neat about being able to make performance accessible for others, or at least making their journey toward it less arduous,” he said.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, http://bit.ly/2nsVjmJ

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Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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