End of School Year

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

I can’t believe that the year is almost over! It’s been a great tenth grade. I’ve made some awesome new friends, learned a lot about playing music with others, and did great in my classes.

Last friday, I played in the last Jazz concert of the year with the big band and other ensembles. We performed four exciting pieces from a variety of different composers. At the end, all the seniors in band were recognized by our music teacher and director. Delicious snacks and drinks were provided for the musicians after the show was over and we all just hung out and had a good time.

I’ve decided to join my school’s Jazz Combo next year as well. This band, though smaller than the big band, is constantly booked for gigs at various locations, and on occasion is paid for playing. Many of my friends are part of the combo and strongly recommend that I join, especially since we’ll be losing a large portion of players this year. I am also super enthusiastic about beginning sound recording classes after school in my junior year. I am currently in the process of acquiring the software I’ll need to succeed in this class.

Not too long ago, some friends and I played music at our school assembly. We played a simple 12 bar blues piece during which we traded solos. Everyone loved it and said we did really good! I told my counselor that I’d certainly love to play in future assemblies. I’m planning to get my own band started over the summer break. Maybe we could play together at school functions.

Thanks again to everyone involved in the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship and congratulations to the other winner Mario! Hope he enjoys his trip to the LA Science Center!



May 2016 Blog


Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Recipient — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

I am still really excited that I won the scholarship. Since receiving the funds, I have started shopping for a bass clarinet to use in my Jazz Ensemble at Culver City High School. Currently I’m playing the standard clarinet, but I’m looking forward to learning this new instrument. Hopefully by next month I will have found something that I can use the funds for.

In addition, I’ve started researching some studio software for blind music producers. I’m really interested in learning to use a program called Sonar. I am learning the accessibility of another program called CakeTalking by Dancing Dots. Once I get this set up on my laptop with JAWS, I will be able to independently make beats, write, and record some original music. I’m also planning on taking a class next year called Sound Recording in which this software will greatly help.

In conclusion, I am thrilled to have the opportunity through the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship to further my music education.

Thanks again,


Introducing 2016 DCYS Recipients!

Recipients! Yes, you read that correctly – this year we have awarded TWO students the CTEBVI Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship! We’d like to introduce you to Mario Chitwood and Christopher Serrano, this year’s recipients. Please welcome them to our CTEBVI blogosphere! 

Pictured: Mario Chitwood standing in a white shirt and jeans

Pictured: 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient, Mario J. Chitwood III — Photo: Family of Mario Chitwood

My name is Mario Chitwood I and I am 12 years old. I am currently in 6th grade and will soon be going into middle school. I lost complete sight 5 years ago do to a genetic eye disease, so now I am a Braille user and I travel using a cane. I hope to one day get a guide dog. I have many interests but some of my favorites include learning about Greek mythology, studying outer space, and of course playing Goalball every chance I get. I have a little brother named Max who is almost a year and a half. I enjoy teaching him new things and hope to one day teach him braille.

If I am the recipient of this scholarship, I would really like to use some of the money towards a trip to Los Angeles to Visit the California Science Center. This center has different exhibitions that Are both Fun and educational. Some of the ones that I am most interested in are the Journey to Space exhibition, the Mission 261. The Big Endeavor exhibition, and the ecosystems exhibition. I would like to learn more about space but also about the people who become astronauts because I know I would find those types of stories fascinating.

I mainly chose this activity because when my mom and I researched educational places to visit that are accessible for the blind, the California Science Center fit the criteria. Not only are some of them exhibitions hands on but they provide audio description for ALL the exhibitions! They also provide a visual descripted guided tour for guests with visual impairments. This sounds like a place I can visit and not have to worry about not being able to participate because of accessibility issues.

If I receive this scholarship it will help me towards one of my ultimate goals which is to make it as a contestant on Jeopardy. I love watching this game show with my parents because it’s an educational game show but it’s competitive too. I think a lot of what I will learn at the Science Center could help me towards achieve my goal of being the first kid Jeopardy contestant that just happens to be blind.

I feel that I should be the recipient of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship because I want to inspire other people who are blind but especially kids my age to always goals and try your hardest to accomplish them. I also want to be a positive role model to my little brother and show him that an education and hard work leads to great opportunities.



Pictured: Christopher Serrano dressed in a black tuxedo.

Pictured: 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient, Christohper Serrano — Photo: Christohper Serrano

Student Essay for Christopher Serrano

My name is Chris Serrano, I’m 16 years old and am currently enrolled at Culver City High School. I am also a part of an after school program at the Junior Blind of America which I attend every day when possible. In my free time, I love to play music. I joined my school’s Jazz Ensemble and Guitar Ensemble. On the weekends, I spend my time at the Academy of Music for the Blind (AMB) where I am learning a total of seven different instruments and other skills such as computer programming, sound recording and braille music.

If I am the recipient of this scholarship, it is in my best interest to put the money toward a cause that would ultimately support my passionate desire to further study music. My favorite instrument, of the many I play, is the clarinet. I play the standard B-flat clarinet, but I’ve been wanting a bass clarinet, an instrument with a wider range of notes and more playability. Because the clarinet is my favorite instrument, I will be twice as inspired to learn how to read more braille music. I will have all my parts for band transcribed into Braille so that I may read and memorize the notes much more efficiently before playing them on the instrument.

I’ve also been wanting to download recording software on my computer called Sonar Professional. Next year, I wish to take sound recording classes as an elective in school. Sonar is the most accessible for the visually impaired users and would make the class easier for me to understand.

Receiving the scholarship would help pay for both pieces of equipment. These essential tools would make y educational experience in the field of music a lot more accessible and enjoyable. I’ll be able to do things more independently without having to rely on my sighted peers. One of the requirements for the sound recording class that I am interested in taking is to create your own composition using the available software and studio. If I receive the money and download Sonar, I will be able to meet the monthly requirement on time. Finally, reading Braille music more fluently will help me learn my parts for both Jazz and Guitar Ensemble more efficiently.

If I should receive this scholarship, I believe it would help me succeed in my music career. The money will enable me to purchase the necessary items that will guarantee my success. Many issues, such as learning parts for band by ear, will be resolved when I learn more advanced braille music and am able to play it on the bass clarinet I hope to obtain.