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).
On the first night of this year's program, YES 2 students participated in an African drumming workshop with Jack Straw resident artists Etienne Cakpo and Yaw Amponsah from Gansango Music and Dance Ensemble.
YES 1 students came to Jack Straw for an afternoon of music and drama. Jack Straw resident artist Brandon Blake worked with students to create musical soundscapes with the kalimba, a traditional African instrument. Students also created two flash dramas, "Meeting of Minds" and "Rhinos Rule."
SKILLS students from Mt. Vernon came to Jack Straw for a workshop all about guide dogs. Guide dog trainers Robin Roselle and Heidi Hespelt brought two guide dog puppies in training to Jack Straw for students to learn and ask questions. Students also created two PSAs, “Service Animals Are Allowed Almost Anywhere” and “Guide Dog PSA,” as well as performed and recorded “My Best Friend Has Fur,” an original composition written by Jack Straw intern Ursula Sargent.
Over the following weeks, the YES 2 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, “Don't Know Where I'm Going.” Writer Jesse Minkert, vocal coach Alyssa Keene, and engineer Daniel Guenther with the drama group of students to create an original radio play, “Storria's Mystic Bakery.”
YES 1 Students playing the double-ended kalimba
SKILLS students get accquainted with a guide puppy in training
YES 2 students practicing their original song
SKILLS students recording "My Best Friend Has Fur"
YES 1 student recording a flash drama with voice coach Alyssa Keene
YES 2 students rehearse their original song in the studio with Bill Horist
The Blind Youth Audio Project 2018 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 Rodrigues Fund, Jubilation Foundation of the Tides Foundation, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, and individual contributors for their generous support.
Our production team included Jack Straw audio engineers Daniel Guenther, Joel Maddox, and Ayesha Ubayatilaka; production interns Handrae and Tabrina Henthom, Madison Kearney, Sebastian Pallaisaks, and musician and intern Ursula Sargent; writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; vocal coaches Alyssa Keene and Meg McLynn; musicians Bill Horist, Jessica Lurie, Brandon Blake, and Gansango Music and Dance; photographer Sherwin Eng, web designer and musician, Levi Fuller, and Jack Straw Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz.
Special thanks to Janet George with the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind and YES 2 staff members; Washington State School for the Blind and YES 1 staff members Marcie Ebarb, Michelle Doherty, Paul Baldwin, Boni Moran, and Doug Trimble; Zack Small and Johanna Tracy, Mount Vernon School District and SKILLS Mount Vernon; Robin Roselle and Heidi Hespelt from Guide Dog Puppies of 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: