The new role of Sideman

Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps it was divine intervention, but Sideman has a new calling.

I’ve always been fascinated by technology that truly improves quality of life – specifically assistive technologies. For example, not long ago I added an inexpensive text-to-speech chip to Sideman. Before long I put my computer monitor in the closet because Sideman was now speaking to me. I could focus on playing music, trusting that Sideman would only interrupt me if there was something urgent to report.

For years now I have been playing piano mostly with my eyes closed. I find that I am more ‘in touch’ with the music, hearing it and feeling it at a much deeper level. I also learned to ‘touch type’, no longer hunting and pecking to find the right key. Best decision I ever made.

Then one day I stumbled upon a news feed focusing on assistive technologies for the blind. I think I simply froze. A seed had been planted. If Sideman makes it effortless to play piano with my eyes closed – never forcing me to take my hands off the piano keys – why would that not be the case for a blind piano student?

I immediately contacted Diane Brauner, editor of the “Pathways To Technology” newsletter from the Perkins School For The Blind, and asked her opinion on the creation of a set of Audio Tutorials to teach Jazz Piano to the visually impaired. Diane did her research on Sideman and provided me with the optimistic encouragement I was looking for.

Looking forward I see Sideman serving a new purpose. Rather than being just another expensive tech widget, full of bells and whistless, it will strive to bring something positive to the VI Jazz pianist.

The new audio tutorials will strive to provide the student with necessary music theory. The presentation emphasizes ear training and finger muscle memory. With practice and motivation the student will be improvising with sophisticated jazz chord voicings.

When the student desires, an inexpensive Sideman will provide him/her with a lifetime of accompaniment – for personal enjoyment or proffessional performance.