Sitting straight up with her smooth lips on the brass mouthpiece, Kim Allen, 37, despite being visually impaired since birth, plays the trumpet on stage with the Tyler Community Band.
“Kim is just a blessing to us. She comes in and puts us all to shame,” said Cheryl Hale, assistant director of the Tyler Community Band. “She comes in and puts on a beautiful sound and a beautiful composition.”
Born three months before the due date at 1 pound and 6 ounces, doctors said young Ms. Allen would not live to see the light of day.
But she survived, although she never developed eyesight because of abnormal blood-vessel growth in the retina.
Bound by darkness, she focused on touch, smell, feel and listening, paving her way to become a musician.
When she first held a trumpet in middle school in September 1988, learning to play demanded great challenge and dedication.
While sighted musicians use written notation, blind musicians, such as Ms. Allen, rely on memory.
“I didn’t understand the concept of the music at that time, and I had to learn my music note by note, measure by measure and line by line until I got the song completed. It would take a long time,” Ms. Allen said.
Dedicating two to three hours to daily practice, seven months later Ms. Allen earned 14th chair in the district band. She proved to hundreds of spectators that being visually impaired was not a disability to becoming a great musician.
“I was very excited and nervous at the same time,” Ms. Allen said. “I wanted to keep going up for more contests, and then I kept going to district.”
Her talent and passion for music grew during high school in Troup. She earned a spot with the Association of Texas Small School Bands and then the Texas All-State Band during her junior and senior years. Mastering the art of note memorization by ear and demonstrating her abilities become one of Ms. Allen’s greatest enjoyments.
However, obstacles remained, she said.
“People really didn’t think I would be able to play. They didn’t have confidence in me,” Ms. Allen said. “When I could go to contest, they would try to make as much noise to distract me, I still played. I was going to prove them wrong.”
Ms. Allen’s determination did not go unnoticed. In 1994, she was selected to part take in the American Musical Ambassador Band. Ms. Allen toured seven countries in Europe, including Germany, France and Italy. Always giving the best of her, she found satisfaction in the sound in music.
“I like to put in my own emotions and feeling as well,” Ms. Allen said. “I just enjoy playing, period. I have a passion for music, and I enjoy it.”
Today, with zeal and poise, she continues to perform in the Tyler Community Band, which puts on at least four concerts a year.
“I love the band,” Ms. Allen said. “It brings back a lot of memories from high school, and it makes me feels good. I’m able to continue playing music.”
Being a band member for more than 10 years, Ms. Allen has found enjoyment in bringing to the community the best of herself in every performance.
Ms. Hale said Ms. Allen inspires the musicians around her.
“She has to work harder than everybody else, you know,” Ms. Hale said. “The way she has to learn it is real difficult, and her work ethic is amazing.”