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An Expert in Music, a Volunteer for Life

Categories: Audiobook Library, Volunteerism

Attracting volunteers with strong subject matter expertise to narrate books from their field is an art form at Learning Ally. Case in point: 82-year old Jane Douglas pioneered the creation of music therapy programs and taught piano at the University of Georgia as well as privately. Today she is a go-to reader for our music audiobooks -- and has been volunteering at our Athens, Georgia studio for 45 years. Jane Douglas literally plays the piano as she reads and records in the studio, adding unmatched value to Learning Ally's music materials.  (Click on the player below to hear an audio clip of Jane playing piano and reading an excerpt from "Listening to Music, Sixth Edition" by Craig Wright.) Jane Douglas records accessible audiobooks for readers with print disabilities at Learning Ally's studio in Athens, Georgia"I had a piano student who was blind," she recalls. "The difficulty he had with his learning materials - books and his written music - totally intrigued me. He would carry in a Braille Beethoven sonata that was six inches thick! I was so intent on helping him and when I found out I could make a difference to others through Learning Ally, I fell in love with it!" Jane explains that most of the music texts she records deal with music history, musicology, jazz and theory -- books with complex and specialized vocabulary. The audition or test to become a music reader at Learning Ally is not easy. "I recall on that test there was a long list of music terms and composers. When I heard about Learning Ally, I was so eager to take the test and see if I could become a reader or help in some capacity. I passed it and am still a reader today!" Jane began volunteering in 1965 and has visited the Athens, Georgia studio weekly since then. "Jane is in fine tune with living life to its fullest, and her talents and time are put to excellent use here. She brightens the day each time she walks in our door!" says Athens Production Director Eleanor Cotton. Learning Ally studio volunteer sitting at piano keyboard in a recording booth. Before moving to Athens, Jane was truly “a pioneer” in the field of Music Therapy when she worked at two mental hospitals in New Orleans, Louisiana. She founded the Music Therapy Programs at DePaul Sanitarium and Charity Hospital. She received a Bachelor of Music degree from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with a major in piano, and did graduate studies at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. Later, she pursued a career teaching piano. At 82, Jane leads an active life traveling with her grandchildren, playing golf and volunteering as much as possible. She gives her time at the information desk at Athens Regional Medical Center (ARMC), helps at Athens Visitors and Convention Center, delivers Meals on Wheels for Athens Community Council on Aging and is an usher for events at the University of Georgia. She retired in 2009 after 20 years as Principal 2nd Violinist with the Athens Symphony Orchestra. For her "Significant contributions as a volunteer in worthwhile community services that improve health, welfare and quality of life for area residents," Jane received the 2011 J.W. Fanning Humanitarian of the Year Award, given annually by the ARMC Foundation Pillar Society. She also received the Junior League Lifetime Community Service Award in 2009. "Of all the volunteer work I've done, Learning Ally makes me feel as though I've really done something worthwhile and of value," she says. "Maybe it is because of the experience I had with that one student who really needed help. It is remarkable to me that music texts are available for those with vision problems!" -Reported by Jenny Falke and Betty DeLorme

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