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blind DJ

From yacht-rock to pop-ballads: Our first Audio Academy broke new ground

On Sunday afternoon, the halls of LightHouse reverberated with the deep, breezy sounds of yacht rock. “Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be,” crooned DJ Dan’s tune “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. A San Francisco State student with an interest in all things aquatic, Dan’s final performance on Sunday transported the audience to a tranquil expanse and back again, reflecting Dan’s personality with quirky, upbeat folk and country tunes perfectly suited for the sailing life.

Each student entered the weekend with no knowledge of DJing, and left equipped with sufficient knowledge to assemble a twenty minute set. Our blind instructors Byron Harden and Clarence Griffin from Chicago-based I See Music introduced students to the software Deejay Pro and taught them the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. Their program, designed by blind people for blind people, is the only in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.

The workshop participants performed sets that were each as unique in tone and style as the students themselves. We heard an uplifting, pop-centric set by Maycie, a thumping, rhythmic set from Jenna and hip hop and R&B tunes from Juan. Traveling from all around Northern California, the students came from as far as Sonora and Sacramento, taking full advantage of the LightHouse’s cozy residential facilities for the 3-day workshop.

Audio Academy student Maycie sits grinning in front of her DJ equipment in the LightHouse board room.
Audio Academy student Maycie sits grinning in front of her DJ equipment in the LightHouse board room.

Maycie, 20, was thrilled to find out about Audio Academy because it marked a departure from many other inaccessible or antiquated audio workshops. She had researched a variety of music schools, but none could provide appropriate accommodations. As a vocalist, producer of her own songs and aspiring DJ, Maycie sought an educational avenue for audio skills.

“Blind people kind of get stereotyped a lot as musicians,” she says. “Not every blind person is musical, but for those of us that are, there need to be more opportunities.”

She says that the workshop provided a comprehensive basic understanding of the DJ software, DJ methodology and tools, adding that the workshop solidified her interest in DJing professionally.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling, to be honest: I had this picture in my head of actually performing a DJ set, and no one would have to help me — I could do it fully by myself.”

Audio Academy student Jenna smiles, seated, with one hand on her laptop and the other on her DJ equipment.
Audio Academy student Jenna smiles, seated, with one hand on her laptop and the other on her DJ equipment.

Jenna, 21, says that although she wasn’t certain what to expect for the weekend, she was glad to have participated and introduced herself to a set of skills to enhance both her recreational and vocational interests.

“This has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me with my pursuit of a career in music and I’m excited to attend more Audio Academy Workshops in the future,” she says.

Juan, 23, says that the workshop was fulfilling as an opportunity to learn new skills in a new environment, and add another skill to his musical toolbox of piano, guitar and percussion instruments. Over the weekend, he learned to mix and edit a set of songs using DJay Pro in conjunction with accessible technology, including VoiceOver.

Audio Academy students, instructor Clarence and LightHouse Board member Josh Miele assemble in the Board Room around DJ equipment to listen to music.
Audio Academy students, instructor Clarence and LightHouse Board member Josh Miele assemble in the Board Room around DJ equipment to listen to music.

“I like to listen to music, so DJing seems like a possibility, and I felt like the teachers were putting good emphasis in the stuff they taught us,” he says. “I want to buy the DJ equipment and start practicing at home. And, I want to actually do what the instructors do. They get gigs and stuff like that, and I want to actually DJ professionally.”

Byron and Clarence collectively have a wealth of knowledge and experience in audio production, DJing and music. Byron created I See Music to foster independence, equality and opportunity through their instruction and example of professional success.

Daniel, 22, says that having blind instructors was a defining part of the workshop. He was pleased that their knowledge of both the DJ and accessibility softwares rendered the workflow relatively seamless.

At left, Blind DJ Ryan Dour performs a set using an iPad and DJ equipment, while Audio Academy student Daniel listens with delight at right.
At left, Blind DJ Ryan Dour performs a set using an iPad and DJ equipment, while Audio Academy student Daniel listens with delight at right.

“I felt the program was really good. I really learned a lot, and I think that it was a good opportunity for people,” he says. “You could get hands-on experience there with somebody that really knew the software. I might use the knowledge as a radio DJ, or might just do some DJing on the side just for fun.”

Aspiring DJs, producers and engineers: Jumpstart your career at the new LightHouse Audio Academy Workshops

LightHouse’s new immersive program launches in fall 2018 to educate blind and low vision students for careers in music, radio, recording and more.

October 15 preview: Meet other aspiring blind DJ’s and get a performance from working DJ Ryan Dour at a free Audio Academy DJ Demo Night!

This fall LightHouse is pleased to announce our new Audio Academy, an ongoing series of immersive courses to teach employable skills in the field of audio engineering and production. For our first course, we are partnering with the Illinois-based, blind-run I See Music, the only school in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.

“Intro to DJing” will be a 3-day intensive workshop, which will host a small group of students in our dorm-style residences over two nights for an immersive, high-value learning experience. The course will introduce students to the software Deejay Pro and teach students the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. See full course details below.

The workshop will also include a comprehensive discussion of the vocational opportunities in the DJ field from Byron Harden, founder and CEO of I See Music. Come spend the weekend with your fellow audio heads, and learn the skills needed for competitive employment in the music and entertainment industry.

What is Audio Academy?

Back in the days of analog, being a blind radio disc jockey, record producer or even a house engineer was not out of the question. But with the turn of the century and the turn to digital, the industry traded knobs, buttons and sliders for inaccessible graphic user interfaces on screens. For several years, the accessibility of the audio industry screeched to a halt.

Today, the landscape is greatly improved: industry leaders like Apple, AVID, Algoriddim and Native Instruments have made commitments to accessibility, and blind individuals can finally operate the tools of the trade to become studio owners, radio producers and musicians in a competitive working environment.

LightHouse Audio Academy will continue over the course of the year with talks, informal gatherings and more immersive weekends (each weekend will focus on a different topic, software or hardware application).

Please note: all who are interested in the workshop must fill out our brief application form.

LHAA 101: Intro to DJing Workshop

When: Friday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. – Sunday Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. (3 days, 2 nights)

Where: LightHouse for the Blind offices and residences – 1155 Market Street., San Francisco, CA 94103

Who: For all blind and low vision students

Fee: $800, (includes 2-night overnight stay, breakfast and lunch for 3 days)

Prerequisites: Ability to navigate with VoiceOver on Mac OS

Equipment: Apple workstations will be provided to students for the weekend if necessary, but bringing your own computer (Mac OS or iPad only) and Deejay Pro-compatible DJ controller is recommended.

Apply: To apply for a spot in the first workshop you must fill out our brief Audio Academy application form, located here.

If you’re still unsure, join us on October 15 at 7 p.m. to get a sneak peak of what it’s like to blind DJ at our free preview event.

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