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)

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

SKILLS students with vocal coach Katya Landau
(Jack Straw staff)

YES 1 students recording a flash drama with voice coach Alyssa Keene
(Sherwin Eng)

YES 2 students gathering sounds outside with Daniel Guenther
(Tin Chau)

Listen to the students' work below:

YES 1 Introduction


The Blind Youth Audio Project 2017 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 Daniel Guenther, Joel Maddox, Tom Stiles, and Ayesha Ubayatilaka; production interns Duong Cao and Tin Chau; writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; Vocal coaches Alyssa Keene and Katya Landau; Musicians Bill Horist and Jessica Lurie; Gallery artists Roger Feldman and Jeff Roberts; 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 and SKILLS Mount Vernon; Ailean Mattsen and SKILLS Seattle; 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:



For further information, contact:

Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director
Jack Straw Cultural Center


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