TAMPA, Fla. — Matthew Weihmuller gives a whole new meaning to “feeling” the music.
“I’m actually reading ahead of what I’m describing,” he said as he slid his fingertips over the Braille notes on his music sheet.
Weihmuller has been blind since birth. His hereditary Leber congenital amaurosis condition keeps him from seeing much more than light and contrast. He can’t make out shapes or colors and uses a cane to navigate hallways.
He can’t see music notes but he can hear them perfectly.
The professional saxophonist is spending a week tutoring teenagers in a Jazz Intensive course at the Straz Center For Performing Arts. Kids ages 13 and up get the chance to see him work his fingers over the Braille and commit the notes to memory before transferring that to his instrument.
“They’re pretty much blown away when I show them how it works,” he said.
The students are impressed by Weihmuller’s skill.
“I was just amazed by his talent,” said 17-year-old Blake High School student, Gavin Dellavalle. “I’ve never seen someone in my perspective with a disability being able to play at that level.”
Dellavalle has played the saxophone for six years and has known Weihmuller for two. The two sat across from each other during a practice session on Thursday morning, during which the elder musician belted out instructions when he heard notes miss the mark.
“We’ll get something wrong and he’ll pull (the Braille) out, start touching the paper and say, ‘Oh no it’s this. You’re playing it wrong, man’.”
It’s all part of the fun for Weihmuller.
“By teaching, I feel like I’m really keeping the music alive and foster another generation.”
Weihmuller grew up in Tampa and attended Blake High School and Florida State University. The week-long jazz camp will conclude with a concert Friday night at 5:30. Tickets are $10.
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