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 The Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (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).
To start this year's program, YES 1 students came to Jack Straw for an afternoon of music and speech with musicians Jessica Lurie and Salome MC. Students split into two groups to write and record original compositions around the theme of common misconceptions of blindness.
On the first night of the YES 2 program, students participated in an evening of flash dramas to create “Eye Contact” and two versions of “Handshake Translator," working in both of our studios and our New Media Gallery.
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, “My Cane Is My North Star.” Writer Jesse Minkert, vocal coach Alyssa Keene, and engineer Daniel Guenther worked with the drama group to create an original radio play, “Age Is Just a Number.”
SKILLS students from Mt. Vernon came to Jack Straw for a workshop with musician Salome MC. The group wrote and recorded an original composition based on the themes of challenges of blindness and things they would like others to know about them.
YES 2 students playing drums and percussion in the Jack Straw studio
A student plays the keyboard in a SKILLS music workshop
YES 2 student and engineer Daniel Guenther recording flash dramas in the Jack Straw New Media Gallery
Salome MC and Daniel Guenther help from the control room as YES 1 students record in the studio
The Blind Youth Audio Project 2019 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. Special thanks to the Rodrigues Fund, Jubilation Foundation of the Tides Foundation, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, 4culture King County Lodging Tax Fund, 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 Connor Wang, Ben Campion, and Sebastian Pallaisaks; writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; vocal coaches Alyssa Keene, Kate Myre, Richard Sloniker, and Katya Landau; musicians Bill Horist, Jessica Lurie, and Salome MC; photographer Sherwin Eng; 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; Washington State School for the Blind with YES 1 staff members Marcie Ebarb, Michelle Doherty, Paul Baldwin, Boni Moran, and Jeff Bowler; Zac Small and Johanna Tracy, Mount Vernon School District and SKILLS 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.
SKILLS students in the studio:
YES 1 students in the studio:
YES 2 students in the studio:
More on Jack Straw's programs for the visually impaired: