Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Historic Piano Finds a Home at APH

A senior portrait of Stevie playing the school piano

A moving company from Michigan delivered a unique artifact to the APH Museum in July, a piano from the Michigan School for the Blind. The school opened in Lansing in 1880 and was closed by the state in 1995 due to declining enrollment. The Steinway baby grand from the school auditorium would have been used by many students, including their most famous graduate, Steveland Morris, better known to the world as mega-entertainer Stevie Wonder. A photograph in Ted Hull’s 2000 memoir The Wonder Years shows Wonder and other musicians around the piano, ca. 1965, during a “jam session.” This spring, APH Ex Officio Trustee Collette Bauman, who is with Michigan’s Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach, contacted APH about finding the famous piano a new home.

“I thought it would be a good place to share one of our treasures,” said Bauman.

Installing the piano will require some planning. A section of the museum between the story of talking books and Helen Keller is currently being evaluated. Museum Director Mike Hudson has already been in touch with Hull, a MSB graduate who was Wonder’s private teacher and companion between 1963 and 1969. Wonder’s constant absences from his public school had put him in hot water with both his mother, Lula, and the Michigan Department of Education. His enrollment at MSB and the hiring of Ted Hull solved that problem for Motown Records neatly. Also, we’re learning about the role of Helen “Peggy” Traub, a teacher at the Kentucky School for the Blind who was originally hired to tutor Wonder when he performed in Louisville in 1963. Stay tuned as we work to develop and install this fascinating story.

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