Special Collections Librarian Creates "Blind Musicians" Collection


“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.” - Stevie Wonder

Justin sits smiling with the listening station behind him
Justin Gardner, a special collections librarian at the American Printing House for the Blind, has always had a passion for music. So it’s no surprise that he was in attendance when Michael Cleveland, a Kentucky School for the Blind graduate and award-winning American bluegrass fiddle player, played at the APH Bards and Storytellers event. Impressed by the performance, Justin was inspired to do some research on this local musician that had made it big. Justin soon found there were very few articles on someone who he considered to be such an influential musician in the BVI community. Luckily, Justin saw this as an opportunity to use this passion for music. He was inspired to create a comprehensive library of music created by musicians that are blind or visually impaired. Spanning from the 13th century to present, this collection has greats like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, the quirky street performer turned composer Louis Hardin also known as “Moondog,” and the relatively unknown Foot Patrol.

Close up of Justin's hand perusing the catalog
With this collection, you can enjoy this immersive opportunity to explore BVI musicians throughout history. This project was made possible through a grant by the H. W. Wilson Foundation. The complete collection, including all available songs from each artist is currently only accessible through the listening station at the American Printing House for the Blind located in Louisville, Ky. You can listen to a sample of each artist’s work on a Spotify playlist made by Justin. This playlist has about 4 songs from each artist and can be found in an embedded player below. Spotify was chosen to host this sample list as they have the most comprehensive collection of music for free. You can also listen to Spotify through your Alexa or Google Home.

Justin continues to add to this playlist as new artists are discovered and old artists are uncovered. If you see a famous musician from the BVI community that did not make the list, please feel free to contact Justin Gardner at at jgardner@aph.org



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