Music Education at the New York Institution for the Blind, 1832-1863

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Research in Music Education

Publication Date



music education, blind, exceptional learners, history, New York


The purpose of this study was to document the history of music education at the New York Institution for the Blind (NYIB) from the opening of the school in 1832 through the tenure of the facility’s first music director, Anthony Reiff. Research questions pertained to the school’s origin and operation and to its music curriculum, pedagogy, faculty, ensembles, and resources. The NYIB provided a home and education for students ages eight to twenty-five. The music program served as recreation and vocational training and as a means of promoting the school. Reiff joined the faculty in 1835 and established a band and choir that performed throughout the city and surrounding states. In 1847, the board of managers hired George F. Root as head of vocal music and named Reiff director of the instrumental division. Sigismund Laser replaced Root in 1855 and remained at the NYIB until 1863, when both he and Reiff left the school. The faculty at the NYIB developed and promoted effective methods for teaching music to people with blindness and prepared graduates to serve as church musicians, piano tuners, and music educators. Findings from this study might serve to remind music educators of past pedagogical methods and principles applicable in teaching students who are blind today.


This article was published in Journal of Research in Music Education, Volume 62, Issue 4, 362-388, December 17, 2014,