Janne E. Irvine, pianist, musicologist, and scholar, has been publishing articles, poems, and essays in journals and newspapers since 2006. Her first book and autobiography, Making Friends with Other Trees and Flowers – a Story of Low Vision and High Expectations, published in 2011, has caught the attention of educators, musicians, and teachers of the blind. Janne tells of her experiences growing up with deteriorating eyesight and with a determination to be successful.
Growing up in Belmont Massachusetts, Janne writes of her world as a place of beauty filled with color, for colors were about all she could see. Born three months premature and lucky to survive, Janne’s early education is chronicled in detail, for her mother, a trained schoolteacher, left a letter describing her methods of introducing Janne to the world around her, to reading and writing, music, table manners, and recreational activities. Janne augments this letter with her own memories of this intensive pre-school education. Because of this background, Janne entered kindergarten with her sighted peers, and continued in the sighted world throughout her education.
She writes of travel at home and abroad, of music, art, and dance lessons, of a family sabbatical in London, and describes how she learned to assimilate the world around her through verbal descriptions which augmented and enhanced the blurred images of her visual reality. She tells of losing the sight necessary to read and how she went through her high school years having all of her assignments read aloud to her. Beginning the study of piano, composition, and music theory at the age of thirteen, Janne’s challenge was to learn enough in her chosen field to enter college at the same time as her classmates. Writing poetry as well as a prize winning music composition crowned her high school experience, and this book ends as Janne leaves her childhood home to begin studies at Sarah Lawrence College.
Janne is now working on the sequel, Making Friends with Reality and Dreams – a Story of Lost Vision and Gained Insight which takes her from her college years and graduate studies, through to the present day. Teaching piano, developing classes on Music History and Appreciation, and researching and presenting programs on Music in the Novels of Jane Austen reveal her work as active teacher and performer. A bout with breast cancer, the death of her father, and a ten years’ stint of overseeing her mother’s care are described as she meets these challenges made more difficult by her blindness. Recognizing her ability as a writer, and writing with the lyricism natural to her work as a composer, Janne Irvine is as intensely determined to excel in this career as she has done in the field of music.
Since the summer of 2012, Dr. Janne Irvine has been contributing articles to the Belmont Citizen-Herald, her hometown newspaper. With thoughts of her early years spent in Massachusetts, Janne is also currently working on Emma of Belmont Hill a version of Jane Austen’s Emma set in the 1950s. It is clear that Janne Irvine’s seriousness about her newly chosen career is matched by her enthusiasm for it.