Anaya's story

Early piano lessons

  • Who is in the film?

    This video features five-year-old Anaya, who is blind, her teacher Daniel and Adam, founder of The Amber Trust.

  • Background

    Anaya has been having piano lessons with Daniel at school for around a year. Anaya’s teaching assistant is also present in the room.

  • Aim

    The aim of this film is to show a successful approach to working with a young blind child who started to teach herself to play the keyboard – developing technique, repertoire and skills needed to play with others.

  • What does the film cover?

    Working on technique

    When Anaya first started teaching herself the keyboard, she would only play with her left hand, sitting at right-angles to the instrument. Blind children who teach themselves to play instruments often develop an idiosyncratic technique, with no visual model to guide them. The skill of the teacher is to help them move forward in a way that engages with what they can already do, at the same time encouraging them to adopt a more conventional technique, that will ultimately enable them to achieve much more than would otherwise be the case. In this film, Daniel demonstrates two approaches that he uses to guide Anaya’s technical development: ‘hand-under-hand’ (when her hands are on his) and ‘hand-over-hand’ (where his hands are over hers). He prompts her to use both hands (as she still favours her left hand alone) and to use all her fingers. But, crucially, he is flexible in his approach, giving her the freedom to express herself in her own way, before gently guiding her to try alternatives. The development of Anaya’s technique arises, above all, from her desire for self-expression through music.


    Because of the degree of physical contact involved – which is entirely appropriate given Anaya’s level of understanding and stage of musical development – it is crucial that issues of safeguarding are addressed before lessons begin. Daniel has taken care to ensure that his approach accords with the school’s policy on touch where Anaya is concerned, and he works closely with Anaya’s parents too. A member of the school staff is always present at lessons.

    Child-led learning

    Anaya has a strong idea of the music she wants to play. In this video, Daniel takes her ideas and harnesses them in order to help her to develop her technique and broaden her repertoire. Technically, he allows her to play with one finger (and using only her left hand) before gently guiding her to use all her fingers. He has made every effort to get to know the music of her culture, and he plays and sings an Urdu piece with her, strengthening their musical relationship based on mutual respect and interest, and giving Anaya a sense of ownership and empowerment.

    Teaching music through music

    Anaya’s lesson is full of music, with verbal explanation and comment kept to a minimum. Daniel teaches music through music, not through words. He demonstrates the musical direction in which he wishes Anaya to travel, playing a good deal himself, and encouraging her to listen and join in. He observes that for a child to contribute, albeit a small part, to a potentially rich and complex musical texture it can be immensely motivating.