A portrait of Ioana Gandrabur, seated with her guitar.

On April 11: LightHouse Listenings (in the dark) with Romanian Guitarist Ioana Gandrabur

LightHouse continues its live listening party for ears only, LightHouse Listenings, on April 11 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at LightHouse Headquarters. Join us for an evening of live music in the dark with award-winning classical guitarist Ioana Gandrabur, as she incorporates music with lively interactive discussions about music, blindness, and non-visual entertainment. Learn more and RSVP for the event.

“I used to keep the music apart from the fact of being blind,” says 45-year-old Romanian musician Ioana Gandrabur.

Ever since she was young, Ioana felt a draw and a connection to music. After learning the piano at age five, she picked up the guitar, and by age 14 she had won the Romanian National Guitar Competition.

At 16, she moved to Canada to study at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, where she graduated with honors. She continued on to Europe, where she studied at the Musikhochschule in Kolh, Germany, the Musikakademie in Basel, Switzerland and the Musikhochschule in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Throughout her education and pursuant career as a musician, Ioana was very aware that her blindness impacted how others perceived her identity.

“I never wanted to be known as a blind musician, just a musician,” she says. “But in time, I realized that it’s part of who I am just as much as being a woman.”

With age, she says, she realized that she had a unique perspective on music that she felt compelled to share.

“I joke with musicians and say that as a blind musician, I’m forced to do what any good musician does anyways, which is establish a non-visual connection with their instrument, tactilely and acoustically. This non-visual connection helps with memorization, too. So in some ways, blindness helps hone musical skills.”

Ioana says the opportunity to speak about how her blindness shaped her perspective on music, and music on blindness, attracted her to performing at LightHouse.

As part of her LightHouse Listenings performance, Ioana will play a concert in complete darkness – a format she says not only changes how the audience perceives the music, but also how she performs.

When she had performed in the dark previously, she remembers instinctively getting up to bow at the end of a piece.

“I realized, ‘Wow, I’m bowing to people that can’t even see me,’” she says. “It’s a very funny feeling to be in the spotlight, so to speak, and unseen; it’s a weird paradox.”

She says that this paradox creates a rich space for introspection, and that she hopes to cultivate an musical environment of understanding and appreciation.

“It’s an invitation for people to share the way me and other blind people perceive the world. And, for me, it’s an invitation for me to realize just how much my sense of being seen shapes reality.”

What exactly are ‘live listening parties’?

LightHouse Listenings is an event series dedicated to non-visual entertainment that foregrounds sound (check out this one with Bay Area podcast The World According to Sound, or this one featuring blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer). We’ll host panels, album releases, live musicians, you name it — if you’re into listening, we’ve got the venue. If you’re interested in staging your event for LightHouse Listenings, contact LightHouse Events Manager Andrea Vecchione at avecchione@lighthouse-sf.org.