The Blind Youth Audio Project, initiated in 1997, is an annual project presented by Jack Straw Cultural Center and Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA) 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 SKILLS. Youth Employment Solution (YES) students work in two groups, ages 14-15 (YES 1) and 16 through high school graduation (YES 2).
Engineer Daniel Guenther in the studio with YES 1 students (Sherwin Eng)
We started this year's program by recording a song with the YES 1 students. Musician Levi Fuller wrote the song "Sighted as a Bat (The Click-Click Song)," about human echolocation, then performed and recorded it with the students in Jack Straw's studio, along with teaching artist Bill Horist on guitar. Another group of students produced "Echo," an audio drama about echolocation written by Jesse Minkert.
Later that same night, YES 2 students recorded their own version of the song (with the addition of Jessica Lurie on flute), and produced flash dramas in studio 2 with Alyssa Keene and Katya Landau.
Over the following weeks, high school students worked with Jack Straw teaching artists to write and record original music and radio drama in the Jack Straw studios. Musicians Bill Horist and Jessica Lurie collaborated with one group of students to write and produce an original song, “Dear Friend.” Writer Jesse Minkert, vocal coach Alyssa Keene, and engineer Daniel Guenther with the drama group of students to create an original radio play, “Downtown Tragedy.”
For this year's project we hosted students from SKILLS Seattle and SKILLS Mount Vernon. Both groups of students produced flash dramas and recorded text and sounds inspired by the New Media Gallery installation, The New Landscape, by artists Roger Feldman and Jeff Roberts.
YES 2 students recording their song in studio 1 (Sherwin Eng)