Mummers play music for blind students

PHILADELPHIA, PA - A few days ago, students from Overbrook School for the Blind had an opportunity to listen to Mummers perform songs, ahead of the Sugarhouse Casino Mummers parade.

One student in particular will be performing in a comic brigade made up entirely of children with special needs.

For blind and visually impaired students, sometimes the best way to learn is to listen and feel the world around them; and for kids in Philadelphia, a part of their city’s history is the New Year’s Day Mummers parade.

To help them get a feel for that parade, Mummers from the Fralinger String Band came to the Overbook School for the Blind to play Mummers music, and let the kids touch their costumes.

For 185 years, the Overbook School for the Blind has been teaching blind and visually impaired students to become independent. Helene Marano is the high school program coordinator and said, “Having the Mummers here makes it a real life experience for students. The Mummers were up close and personal . The students were able to interact with the costumes, touch all the different textures, they really lived with the parade is!”

For 16-year-old Gabby Zachweija, this is far from her first experience with the Mummers. Her father, John, passed away in 2008, but was a mummer for 9 years. Gabby is learning to play the saxophone in his memory and hopes to perform in a string band one day. Gabby said, “He was the captain of the Polish American String Band.” Gabby is blind in one eye, but she has the ability to see life’s bigger picture. “Even though they can’t see, they can hear it and they can experience it like face-to-face, right in front of them,” explained Gabby, who organized the Mummers to come play for her classmates at OSB.

This year for the first time ever, thousands of people at the Sugarhouse Casino Mummers Parade will also see something special. Gabby will perform with the comic brigade, Santino’s Dragons. It’s the first time a Mummers brigade will be made up entirely of children with special needs. “We are showing them acceptance if you have a disability.”