Bettye Krolick's Contributions to Braille Music Transcription

Bettye Krolick transcribing music

Bettye Krolick transcribing music. Photo by Robert K. O’Daniell for The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, August 30th, 1976.

Bettye Krolick (1926-2011) changed the world from her home in Champaign through her service to the national and international blind and visually impaired community - effects of which are still felt today. 

I came across Krolick’s story as I researched The Tuesday Morning Musical Club (TMMC), a women’s-only music recital club in Champaign-Urbana. (You can learn more about this club in the archives’ new exhibit, “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: Twentieth-Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County.”) Krolick was very involved in the C-U music community even beyond the TMMC. A violinist by study, she played with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony (where she was first violinist) with her husband Edward Krolick and worked with multiple orchestras, including as “concert master of the Danville Symphony” as stated by the News-Gazette. Krolick eventually moved to Colorado after living in the Champaign-Urbana community for many years, continuing to play music there.

In her 50s, Krolick was introduced to braille because of a class at the University of Illinois. According to a News-Gazette profile in 1976: “‘I taught myself the musical code,’ Mrs. Krolick explained, ‘and became a certified transcriber from the Library of Congress in both the music and literary codes.’” When Krolick was interviewed in the 1970s, she was one of less than a hundred living U.S. citizens to have that certification.

Braille Music
"File:Braille music.jpg" by (Generic CC0-Waived picture used by Jessie Wang in an original written article for CutCommon Magazine) is marked with CC0 1.0

Krolick’s passion for Braille music transcription changed the course of her life for 30-plus years. She wrote two seminal books on the subject, transcribed hundreds of works and mailed them to the Library of Congress, and ran a chat room online. She spread the word about braille musical transcriptions through articles, world travel, and workshops as well. Krolick worked with Mu Phi Epsilon, the World Blind Union, and the National Braille Association - of which she was elected president.

If you would like to learn more about Mrs. Krolick and her work, her obituary and these Library of Congress blog posts are a good place to start. Krolick’s papers are held by the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Information about her also pops up in the Tuesday Morning Musical Club Records, held by the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, and in the collection of newspapers held by the Champaign County Historical Archives.

-Olivia Palid

Archives Practicum Student