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It’s National Blind Awareness Month! Celebrate Awareness With These Successful Sight Impaired Musicians!

It’s National Blind Awareness Month and

Georgia has some blind folks to be proud of!

By Joey Stuckey

As a blind person, I really appreciate it when people recognize the positive impact blind people have made around the world in general and, particularly, in music.

While I would never want to be treated any different than the next guy, I think we can all agree that doing certain things, like music, is a bit more challenging if you can’t see.

I wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the blind musicians I admire and that have made an impact in the state of Georgia, since October is National Blind Awareness Month.

Ray Charles

Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia, and his version of ‘Georgia On My Mind’ is our state song. I can’t imagine Georgia music without his contribution! Can you?

Clarence Carter

Another great Georgia blind soul man is Clarence Carter. He has written a lot of fantastic music, but you will most likely recognize his hit song ‘Strokin.’ While Clarence wasn’t born in Georgia, he has lived and worked here for many years. I had the privilege of performing with him.

Ronnie Milsap

Of course, we can’t forget one of country music’s biggest stars: Ronnie Millsap. Ronnie attended Young Harris University and was taught by former Georgia governor Zell Miller. Ronnie is a great musician, songwriter and showman! He and I have had the chance of chatting backstage a few times. We mostly talked about computers, which brings me to another point I want to share with you.

It might seem that being a recording engineer isn’t a reasonable job for a blind person because there are lots of knobs, dials and buttons to work, in addition to all the metering and computer programs for music production. These are geared towards the sighted user, but guess what? I do all that stuff on a daily basis at my recording studio in downtown Macon (Shadow Sound Studio)! Not to mention, I’ve been getting paid to do music recording and production since I was 15 years old.

Advancement In Technology For The Blind

At first, everything was analog and it was totally tactile, (in other words, you could feel each knob, button and fader). When computer technology started taking over the music biz, it became more of a challenge for blind folks to compete in the production business because everything became virtual. All those buttons, knobs and switches were just pictures you clicked with a mouse. Fortunately, some amazing folks came up with technology that, once again, made the world of computer technology accessible for the blind and it keeps getting better.

In fact, Macon was host to a professor from Gold Smith’s University (located in the UK), back in July. Professor Adam Parkinson came over after meeting me when I was on tour in the U.K in March of this year. We spoke about my passion of assisting people to improve and test technology for the blind.

I was one of three beta testers worldwide that worked with a new device called the Haptic Wave. This product will allow blind people to use their hands to feel the wave form in computer-based music production. This enables blind producers and engineers to use their sense of touch in place of their sense of sight to do the same work. There’s still a long way to go, but I am excited about the possibilities for the product.

Check out the news footage in the links below to learn more about the Haptic Wave and how it will change the lives of blind musicians:

http://youtu.be/VB6o0UKCV8U

http://youtu.be/rfH3wrCGPm8

http://youtu.be/z-qOvmg-RYI

Another outstanding advancement in blind music technology is from the good folks from Saint Mary’s College (also based in the U.K). I worked with Fiore Martin to test the ‘Accessible Peak Meter.’ This makes an audible beep at a user-defined sound level to let the blind person know that the volume level of the instrument they are recording is too loud. 

Check out my video below to learn more:

http://youtu.be/Gfi-bRIVMms

As you know by now, I love Macon and its music. I am proud that Macon and Georgia have so many blind people to call their own and that we are at the heart of groundbreaking new technology. As we progress, blind people can enter the music biz. Talk about a wonderful future!

I’ll sum all this up with a quote from a Joan Osborne song called ‘Spider Web’:

“I dreamed about Ray Charles last night,

He could see just fine you know.

I asked him for a lullaby

He said honey I don’t sing no more.”

This brilliant song encapsulates my feelings about being a blind musician perfectly. While it can be challenging not to be able to see, I am grateful for the other abilities I have and have no wish to be anything except what I am!