|Seeing through sound: Trần Anh Tuấn (second from right) teaches students from Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Secondary School for the blind. His musical class of ten students takes place every Friday evening from 5:30pm to 8pm.|
Police officer Trần Anh Tuấn spends every Friday evening teaching visually impaired students from the Nguyễn Đình Chiều High School for the Blind to play the guitar. Thanks to his dedication and the beautiful sounds of the instrument, many students have been able to experience more colour and happiness in their lives. Lương Thu Hương reports.
During the week, police captain Trần Anh Tuấn works at the College of Fire Fighting & Prevention, but every Friday evening he teaches music at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Secondary School for the Blind.
His 10 students, ranging from 8 to 14 years old, are always eager for their next lesson, where they will learn how to play and sing along with the guitar, using only their senses of touch and hearing.
Whenever they make a mistake, Tuấn will gently hold their hands, adjusting their position on the strings and instructing them on the correct technique.
“I’m filled with joy when I see my students play the guitar and perform songs they have practised before the lesson. I’m also happy to see them become more and more passionate about music, which they have come to consider as an indispensable friend”, Tuấn says.
“I hope that music will bring more happiness to them.”
Music has also been the 35-year-old captain’s passion since childhood, and at the age of 12 he was taught how to play the guitar by his father. Besides music, he also enjoyed martial arts, “because I wish to help people, defend the weak and protect peoples’ rights”.
After earning an excellent degree from the National University of Art Education, instead of becoming a musician or art teacher, he applied to become a policeman and was accepted at the College of Fire Fighting & Prevention.
“I think that only by becoming a policeman in a uniform could I live, defend and devote myself to my hometown, like my relatives who voluntarily went to the battlefield to protect the country during the resistance wars,” Tuấn says.
His new role as an official in charge of culture, letters and arts has allowed Tuấn to continue nurturing his passion for music. He has been behind many guitar campaigns among students of Hà Nội’s universities and colleges, and also established the guitar club at his university in 2007.
Besides the ability to sing and play the guitar, he is also able to compose songs. Up to now he has written dozens of songs, three of which have been specifically written to praise Vietnamese police’s exploits.
After work, Tuấn participates enthusiastically and initiates many voluntary programmes dedicated to disadvantaged and physically impaired children, one of which brought him in contact with the children from the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Blind School.
He has never forgotten the first time he saw the children, who have now become his special students.
“When I was first introduced to them, they asked me about my job and where I work. I told them I’m a policeman working for the College of Fire Fighting & Prevention. Then they touched the badges on my shoulders to count the stars, and asked me about their meaning. Then they touched my face to ‘see’ if I’m handsome or not,” he says smiling.
“They are so adorable. Despite their physical deficiency, they are full of life, love, and a desire to integrate into society and succeed,” Tuấn recalls. “Especially, they have a strong passion for music.”
In April, 2014, he received an offer to teach music to visually impaired students from Đỗ Thủy, the vice principal of the school, and accepted without any hesitation. However, due to his busy schedule, he could only teach them one lesson per week.
Since then, every Friday evening, Tuấn rides his motorbike 13 kilometres to his music class at Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School. Each class lasts two and a half hours, from 5:30pm to 8pm.
To most students from the school who come from poor families, a guitar seems to be a luxury. Therefore, to attract students to his music class, Tuấn promised that everyone would be given a guitar. In order to realise his promise, he had to ask for his friends’ help, who have supported by donating their old guitars or purchasing new ones for the class.
Teaching students with limited visual ability to play the guitar might sound like a mission impossible, but Tuấn’s tremendous patience and determination has turned it into reality.
Before each lesson, he designs specific practices himself so that the students can learn to play the instrument with proper hand and finger positions. At times, he puts himself into their shoes by closing his eyes to better understand the difficulties they may face with the techniques or exercises.
What compensates for his students’ visual impairment is their good sense of hearing and feeling for the music. As soon as they have familiarised themselves with the guitar, the teaching comes more easily.
Sometimes Tuấn learns from his own lessons, and applies the knowledge to other students. He even suggests they close their eyes to get a better feeling for the music.
“Despite the difficulties, they demonstrate their fervent ambition to learn and the happiness that each lesson provides. They consider each lesson an interesting game, so they never get tired,” Tuấn says.
What motivates him to stick with his special class over the past two years is seeing the students full of happiness on getting to grips with a new guitar playing technique.
It normally takes one visually impaired student between three and six months to grasp the basic knowledge for playing the guitar, and about another month to be able to play the guitar proficiently while singing or accompanying other singers or musicians.
As one of the students attending the class since it began, Trần Trung Hiếu has always felt grateful to his teacher for his dedication and affection.
“He has taught me whole-heartedly and thoughtfully since the beginning. I am now able to play many pieces. Thanks to the beautiful tunes of the guitar, I feel my life has become more cheerful. We used to encounter many difficulties and make lots of mistakes, but he has always been there to encourage us, which makes us more motivated to learn. I wish he will take this class for as long as possible,” Hiếu says.
As Tuấn’s class is attracting more and more students, he wishes to bring music to other people in need as well.
“I will organise regular musical shows at hospitals in order to encourage the patients’ spirit. Opening musical classes for autistic students or those living in SOS orphanage is also on my to-do-list for the near future,” he says. VNS