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. 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).
Alyssa Keene in the studio with a YES 2 student
This year, Jack Straw's teaching artists worked with SCILS students in Seattle and Mt. Vernon, as well as YES 1 and YES 2 students in our Seattle studios.
SCILS students in Seattle worked with AVIA's Jesse Minkert to create a flash drama, and collaborated with Jack Straw New Media Gallery artist James Borchers to create their own graphic musical compositions, which were performed by musicians Angelique Poteat and Jenny Young.
SCILS Mt. Vernon students worked with Jack Straw artists Christian Swenson and Levi Fuller to perform an original song, “White Cane Day,” at the Lincoln Theatre in Mt. Vernon, Washington. White Cane Day celebrates the abilities of people who are blind and promotes equal opportunities for every American.
YES 1 students worked with Jack Straw teaching artists to create a flash drama, and Jack Straw performing artist Christian Swenson helped them create what he calls “Human Jazz”: activities combining speech, sound, and movement. The students also recorded their version of "White Cane Day" with musicians Levi Fuller and Bill Horist.
YES 2 students worked with Jack Straw teaching artists to write and record more music and perform and record radio drama in the Jack Straw studios. Musicians Bill Horist and Jessica Lurie collaborated with one group of students on writing and producing an original song, while writer Jesse Minkert and vocal coach Alyssa Keene worked with another group to produce a series of two flash dramas and an original radio drama in the studio, using their voices and sound effects they created.
YES 2 student gathering field recordings
Levi Fuller and Bill Horist record "White Cane Day" with YES 1 students
(Jack Straw staff)
SCILS student in the studio with Angelique Poteat, Jenny Young, and James Borchers
YES 2 student rehearsing in the studio with Bill Horist
SCILS Mt. Vernon students and Jack Straw engineer Daniel Guenther at the Lincoln Theatre
(Jack Straw staff)
The Blind Youth Audio Project 2016 was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center, in partnership with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, and the Washington State School for the Blind, 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 and Daniel Guenther; production interns Joel Maddox and Ayesha Ubayatilaka; writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; vocal coach Alyssa Keene, musicians Bill Horist, Jessica Lurie, James Borchers, Angelique Poteat, and Jenny Young; vocalist and dancer Christian Swenson; photographer Sherwin Eng, musician and web designer Levi Fuller, and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz.
Special thanks to Janet George with the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind and YES 2 staff members; Paul Baldwin, Lisa Hodge, Boni Moran, and Doug Trimble with the Washington State School for the Blind and YES 1; Zack Small, Mount Vernon School District, with Ailea Mattsen for SCILS Seattle and with Johanna Tracey, Carter Annema, and Nancy Loy for SCILS Mount Vernon; and Jesse Minkert with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences.
This program was provided in part under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
More on Jack Straw's programs for the visually impaired: