The Blind Youth Audio Project, initiated in 1995, is an annual workshop series run in conjunction with DSB's Youth Employment Solutions (YES) program. Blind and visually impaired students from across Washington state are housed at the University of Washington for 6 weeks while participating in job placement programs all around Seattle. As an extracurricular component to the program, students are invited to attend a series of 8 workshops (twice weekly for four weeks) at Jack Straw's studios, a few blocks from the UW campus.

Eden Schwartz leads the group in singing the new NFB fight song.
(Nat Seymour)

Typically 12-18 students participate in the program each summer, working with Jack Straw staff engineers, theater artists, and guest musicians and sound artists. This year elementary through high school students participated in the project in three separate groups. Students ages 9-13 take part in the Summer Camp for Independent Living, known as SCILS. Youth Employment Solution (YES) students work in two groups, ages 14-15 (YES 1) and 16 through high school graduation (YES 2).

We started this year's program by writing and recording a song with the students to submit to the National Federation of the Blind's contest to find a new "battle song" that "encompasses [NFB's] history while at the same time embraces the bright future that lies ahead." Musician Eden Schwartz collaborated with the students to come up with lyrics and a tune, which they performed and recorded in Jack Straw's studios. Over the following weeks, students worked with Jack Straw teaching artists to write and record more music, perform and record flash dramas and PSAs, and more.

Click here to view a photo gallery from these sessions.

YES 2 Students work on a song in Studio 1
(Sherwin Eng)

SCILS students with Jack Straw voice coach Christine Brown in Studio 2
(Sherwin Eng)

Jack Straw teaching artist Andrew McGinn coaches a YES 1 student
(Nat Seymour)

Listen to the students' work below:


The Blind Youth Audio Project 2014 was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center, in partnership with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, the Washington State School for the Blind, and the Seattle Public Schools with special thanks to the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, the Rodrigues Fund, the Washington State Arts Commission, and individual contributors for their generous support.

Our production team included Jack Straw audio engineers Tom Stiles, CJ Lazenby, and Daniel Guenther; writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; vocal coaches Christine Marie Brown, Andrew McGinn, and Meg McLynn; musicians Paul Kikuchi, Bill Horist, and Eden Schwartz; interns Jake Muir, John Paul DeGennaro, and Cynthia Phillips; photographer Sherwin Eng; web designer Levi Fuller; and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz.

Special thanks to Janet George, Kylie Clark, and Tyler Parker with the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind; Paul Baldwin, Lisa Hodge, Boni Moran, Doug Trimble, and Jennifer Miller with the Washington State School for the Blind; Michael Dickneite, Sara Zachariah, and Joseph Skillings, with the Seattle School District; Jesse Minkert and Lynne Compton, with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences; and the generous donors to our power2give campaign: Shawn Aebi, Harriet Baskas, Randal Bays, David Bilski, Dennis Caswell, Seth Chrisman, Peter Davenport, Kathleen de Gutes, Stuart & Renko Dempster, Gaylen Floy, Jennifer Hammond, Esther Helfgott, Todd Houghton, Pamela Johnson, Paul Kikuchi, Susie Kozawa, Larry Laurence, Robert McNamara, Jane Pattinson, Nancy Peterfreund, Kelly Riutta, Roger Roffman, Joel Snyder, Esther Sugai, and Corry Venema-Weiss.

More on Jack Straw's programs for the visually impaired:



For further information, contact:

Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director
Jack Straw Cultural Center


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