Performing at Perkins School for the Blind

Lisa HIlton at Perkins Oct 2015 - 2Lisa Hilton’s Jazz Rings True for Students Who Are Blind

Renowned composer/pianist pays a visit to Perkins School for the Blind.Watertown, Mass. – It was an unlikely time and place for jazz. Just before noon on a Friday at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, pianist and composer Lisa Hilton took the stage in Dwight Hall to bring her music to 100 students, staff and guests. Before she began, she did something artists rarely do. She asked her audience to tell her at the end of the one-hour performance which piece would be the favorite. (Click here for short video.) Based in Malibu, California, Hilton had come to Watertown on October 16 following recording sessions in New York City. She debuted new compositions from the upcoming, Nocturnal, which were warmly received, and played several others reflecting nature. Her foremost attention, however, was on the students in the audience. Many were music students that she had met on her prior visits to the school. On this day, she played for them a sweet bluesy jazz number she began composing when she was just a teenager herself.

“When a musician, artist, scientist or any expert meets students where they are,” says Pat McCall, Interim Superintendent at Perkins, “the students respond with enthusiasm. You could hear it in their applause and in the easy way they spoke to Lisa.”

Hilton has a strong bond with young people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition to her numerous trips to Perkins for concerts, collaborations and workshops, she also works with Junior Blind of America in California, the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, and the Berklee College of Music Assistive Music Technology Lab for Blind and Visually Impaired Musicians. She sees her music as a way to connect. “This is a wonderful audience, wonderful school and students,” says Hilton. “I would like to just get the word out …that we need to reach out in our community. I think that so many people would like to make the world a better place… I would suggest maybe look in your own community.”

Having come to jazz in adulthood after studying classical music as a child, Hilton can relate to the young musicians she has met in her travels. “Music for anybody – or any kind of art – is an individual path… it will lead you to interesting places.”

And what were the audience’s favorite numbers at the end of the performance? Shouts went up in favor of every one. When it comes to live music in the middle of the day, everyone wins.

Perkins School for the Blind, founded in 1829 as the first school of its kind in the US, is a multifaceted organization working around the world to prepare children and young adults who are blind with the education, confidence and skills they need to realize their full potential.

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