Blind Youth Audio Project 2018

For this year’s project we hosted students from SKILLS Seattle and SKILLS Mount Vernon, as well as YES 1 and YES 2 students at Jack Straw Studios.


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.


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.”


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.

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.”

The Blind Youth Audio Project 2018 was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center and Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, in partnership with 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.



Brandon Blake

Brandon Blake

Brandon Blake plays the bass guitar and the sansula. His music is a small offering to the lineage of the rich history of the variations of the African Kalimba/M…


Etienne Cakpo

Etienne Cakpo is an award-winning professional dancer, choreographer and musician from Benin, West Africa. He teaches and performs traditional African dance from Benin as well as contemporary African dance…

Bill Horist sitting, holding an electric bass, looking at a student playing electric guitar

Bill Horist

Seattle-based guitarist Bill Horist has played on dozens of records and has performed throughout North and Central America, Europe and Japan; collaborating with numerous leading lights in a beguiling…

Jessica Lurie in profile, playing flute and wearing headphones

Jessica Lurie

Seattle and Brooklyn-based Jessica Lurie is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser, performing on saxophones, flute, voice, accordion and electronics. She calls on a wide range of…

Meg McLynn

Meg McLynn

Meg McLynn is a Seattle-based actor, vocalist, and teaching artist who loves sharing her passion for performance with students of all ages. She is a member of the vocal…

Photo of Jesse Minkert

Jesse Minkert

Jesse Minkert’s work has appeared in about fifty literary journals including the Cream City Review, Confrontation, Mount Hope, the Floating Bridge Review, the Minetta Review, Poetry Northwest, Common Knowledge…