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Students Participate in Music Workshops with American Idol Finalists

The FSDB Music Department is thrilled to have partnered with Arts4All Florida to present a series of virtual workshops for blind/visually impaired students. The workshops featured past American Idol finalists James Durbin and Scott MacIntyre.

James Durbin, who spoke about his disabilities briefly, led three one-hour workshops with upper elementary students, which focused on the songwriting process. Students were involved in the entire process, starting with ideas, note-taking, revising, word choices, genres, music writing, refining, and producing. At the end of the series, the students created finished products to share! Durbin was genuinely engaged with the students, providing input and giving each student their moment to shine. He played his guitar, did funny voices, and talked about shared interests. He researched FSDB to relate more to the students and followed up with specific answers to student questions and statements. Durbin put in extra time to produce the songs the students created in their workshops.

Students listen to James Durbin singing through a Zoom call.

Listen to the three completed songs below! Fluffy Fluffy, Fashion Place, and What Makes Me Feel Good.

Scott MacIntyre spoke to our high school music students about his life and experiences as a professional musician. He was the first blind contestant on American Idol and served as a trailblazer. His poignant interaction allowed the students to ask questions about his experience on the show, careers in the music industry, and daily life skills. He spoke about his trials and tribulations, how he focused on identifying his goals, figuring out what he needed to do to get there, and how to overcome setbacks. The students were engaged and asked many questions.

Students asking Scott MacIntyre questions during a workshop.

Music teacher Leslie Costello said, "It was enlightening to peek into the minds of high school students who are blind talking to an adult who is blind and witnessing the synergy and je ne sais quoi."

MacIntyre expressed interest in speaking to our students in person after the pandemic.

Durbin also spoke to the same group of high school music students about his life experiences. He talked about his disabilities of Asperger's and Tourette's syndromes in a manner that modeled proper advocacy for the students. He then asked students to introduce themselves. The question and answer period was focused primarily on the music industry, songwriting, and performance. He finished with a mini-concert for our students.

FSDB is grateful for Arts4All Florida's financial support, coordination, and partnership in presenting these outstanding virtual workshops at the end of a challenging year for the performing arts.


About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To inquire about enrollment eligibility or schedule a campus tour, contact Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information about FSDB, visit


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