Arts and Music
Touch, Explore, Create
Students at Alabama School for the Blind prove artistic vision means so much more than sight. From creating sculptures and painted masterpieces to band, chorus, piano and drama, our students enjoy a vibrant fine arts program that enriches their educational experience and contributes to well-rounded graduates.
Jimmy Carter’s first day of school, 80 years ago, literally changed his life forever. On April 18, 2019 the world renowned Grammy award winning musician came back home to unite with current students of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in a special recording at ASB's Landreth Music Center which includes a professional recording studio.
At age 87, Jimmy is the lone surviving original member of the Blind Boys of Alabama. The group, and Jimmy, has a world-wide fan base and notoriety. Their career has spanned eighty years, 64 albums and numerous awards and performances at the White House and around the world. Students at Alabama School for the Blind will recorded with Jimmy a song adapted by Ron Pullman from the poem, “I am with You Still” (author unknown). The song is a tribute from Jimmy Carter to his longtime friend classmate and band member, Clarence Fountain, who passed away in 2018.
Jimmy Carter’s early days at AIDB
Jimmy Carter’s mother, Cassie, was extremely protective of her youngest son. He had become ill as a toddler and lost his eyesight. She struggled with sending him away to school and Jimmy vividly remembers his first day at the Alabama School for the Negro Blind at age seven as a traumatic one for both of them. She visited Jimmy as often as she could. “It tore her to pieces to send me away to school, but it was for the best,” said Jimmy. “I learned how to get along in life, how to survive.” When he was 13 years old, Carter’s father died in a mining accident in Birmingham. The father and son were really close, “and it got really tough for a while but we survived.”
School life created strong family-like relationships, but it was music that formed lasting bonds of friendship. In 1939, George Scott, Jimmy Carter, Clarence Fountain and several of their classmates began playing and singing together at churches and schools in the Talladega area.
In June of 1944 the group decided to leave school and strike out on their own together to see if they could make a living at what they enjoyed most – music. It was wartime in a segregated South, but these young men, filled with faith, spirit, talent and determination set out to prove something to themselves and the world.
At age 23, George Scott was the oldest in the group. Jimmy Carter was only 12.The first professional performance of the Happy Land Jubilee Singers was at a Birmingham radio show on June 10, 1944. Then the group began performing throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee – except for Jimmy. His mother felt he was too young to travel with the group and made him go back to school. He rejoined the group in 1953.
Mentoring the Next Generation
Jimmy Carter shared his insights and musical experiences with the next generation of students at his alma mater. The session began with a question/answer session and then students recorded their part of the very special song.
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind was founded in 1858. The Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind, where the original members of the Blind Boys of Alabama attended, was created in 1891 and merged with other programs of AIDB in 1969.
In loving memory of Clarence Fountain, 1930-2018
Joey Williams, guitars; Austin Moore, drums; Ray Ladson, bass; Matt Hopkins, keyboards; Lenesha Randolph, background vocals; Charles Harnach, Hammond b3; Ron Pullman, guitars
Alabama School for the Blind Choir, Director: Chad Bell; The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Director: Matthew Mehaffey
Recorded At: Alabama School for the Blind, Talladega, AL; Parsonics Studio, Santa Barbara, CA; Sounds of Birmingham, Bimringham, AL; Audible Images, Pittsburgh, PA; RPM Studio, Carnegie, PA
Recorded By: Alan Parsons, Jay Dudt, Don Mosely, Jules Granati
Additional Engineers: Noah Bruskin, Tyler Murphy