Spring Edition, Volume

Notes from the President

Author: James Aaron Brown

Dear Tennessee Affiliate:

Put your seat belts on. It's been a Spring whirlwind since the month of April started 11 days ago. Since then, we have sprung into action by completing our state convention, had elections in our Nashville Chapter, and had successful meetings with Senator Corker and Congressman Roe in Washington DC last Thursday.

On April 14, I will be going to Tennessee School for the Blind to do our second event with our Project TEAM Mentoring Program. Then, the day after, it's off to the Louisiana state convention to represent President Riccobono at the convention in Baton Rouge. I can't wait for the Gumbo and Bingo this Friday night! You will find that most of this issue will be about the recent state convention held in Murfreesboro Tennessee.

It was our first convention ever held in the growing University town, and If I were only able to use one word to describe our convention, it would be unity. Since my first state convention in 2010, I can't remember us all working together with quite the focus as we have worked with this past year. The convention showed that unity and singleness of mind. It makes me excited to see what the National Federation of the Blind Tennessee will look like in future years. A special congratulations is in order to Jimmy Boehm, who has been elected the new Nashville chapter president after serving as the Stones River Chapter President for the past two years. In addition, Heather Field did a fine job in Nashville last year as president and deserves congratulations as well.

Our Braille BELL Academies are the next affiliate events coming up in Murfreesboro on June 5-11 and in Memphis from June 13-24. We have decided to do some new things this year IN BELL.

The students are on track to dissect sharks, go Rock Climbing, participate in Yoga and have some serious fun learning braille! If you would like to participate in BELL, please contact Christina Clift at, 901-877-4549.

I hope to see many of you as volunteers, but if you can't make it to help out this year, maybe we can have dinner at our national convention, June 30 through July 5, at Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. It's one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever stepped foot in, and I know you all would learn a lot and have a great time. Until then, let's go build the Federation and change what it means to be blind in our state!

A Remarkable Interview with Scot MacIntyre

Author: April Meredith

On February 19, I had the great honor and privilege to interview Scott MacIntyre at the 2016 VSA Tennessee Young Soloist Competition held at Hinton Music Hall at MTSU. Many fans started closely following Scott’s musical journey after he became a Top 8 American Idol Finalist, but his multifaceted career began long before and spans far beyond his AI days.

One of his early achievements is being a VSA winner himself which is why he loves to support the contest and encourage its participants whenever he can. Additionally, Scott is a Marshall scholar, motivational speaker, Podcaster, author, pianist and of course a singer song writer to name a few of the hats he wears. Scott’s latest album Lighthouse includes the original hit titled Remarkable, landing him a #1 spot on Christian music charts. Amazingly, Scott keeps sharing his diverse talents and spreading his message of hope while being a two time donor kidney recipient. I am so grateful he took the time to discuss his career, life challenges, blindness and words of advice with me.

On behalf of the Tennessee Voice staff, our subscribers, and the entire Disability community, thank you for your time and the example you set. You truly are a remarkable person.

Convention Reflections

Author: Wendy Boehm

It was great to see so many great people from all over Tennessee at our April 2016 NFB State Convention! I really enjoyed meeting new people, reuniting with friends, and hearing what everyone has been up to this year! We were warmly welcomed to the convention by ladies who ran the registration table, and it was great to see so many vendors and organizations represented in the exhibit hall.

The guide dog seminar was very informative, with such a fantastic group of members and guest speakers. There was lots of laughter and great food at the TABS night!

Our Tennessee affiliate has some very talented musicians, and it was great to hear them perform several times over the weekend, with excellent sound and technology guys keeping up!

Like last year, it seemed the door prizes never ran out, and our leaders kept us well informed regarding upcoming resolutions and legislation. It was neat to see three scholarship winners receive well-deserved congrats, and I think more than a few banquet goers enjoyed the banana pudding!

Saturday finished with some very brave NFB members taking the karaoke stage, with everyone happy and exhausted by the time we finished on Sunday. I'm thankful for all of the people who made the convention so terrific, and for all of those who traveled to be a part. Already looking forward to next year, and I'm told I'll see you all in Memphis for NFB Convention 2017!

Information on Scholarship Recipients

Author: John Harris

During the banquet at the annual state convention of the NFB on April 1st-3rd at the Clarion Inn Hotel in Murfreesboro, the affiliate awarded three scholarships to the following individuals Quinn Howard, Katherine Shea Welch, and Jimmy Boehm.

Quinn Howard was the third place winner and was awarded $500.00 from the affiliate. He is a Psychology major at MTSU. He currently serves as the Vice President of the local Stones River Chapter of the NFB and also works at the Campus Recreation Center training individuals with disabilities in the Adaptive Recreation program. During his time at Hillsboro High School, he served as the captain of the marching band. Upon graduation, Quinn plans to be a mental health counselor.

Quinn says the following in response to winning a NFB of Tennessee State Scholarship,

“Thanks to the scholarship committee for considering my application for the NFB of TN state scholarship. Like I said during my brief speech at convention, I wasn't expected to be where I am in my scholastic career. This Scholarship award solidifies my journey as a college student. This solidifies that I'm on the path to achieve success. This honor solidifies that those who doubted my educational efforts were wrong about me. The NFB of TN scholarship will help me advance my educational career to graduate school. I'm grateful and honored to be in the scholarship class of 2016 with amazing, influential people such as Shea Welch and James Boehm. I believe this scholarship will not only help the NFB of TN students, but it could potentially increase the youth within this organization. Like many of its members, the NFB of TN scholarship symbolizes what the NFB should be."

Jimmy Boehm currently serves as the President of the Stones River Chapter. He will graduate from MTSU this May with a degree in Psychology and has been accepted to Graduate school in mental health counseling at Vanderbilt University. Jimmy was instrumental in starting a student chapter of the NFB at MTSU, about which the National President wrote a press release congratulating the Stones River Chapter for such a step. He was awarded $500.00 for second place. Jimmy also won a national scholarship from the NFB as well. Jimmy says the following in response to winning a NFB of Tennessee State Scholarship,

"I was honored to receive one of the three scholarships awarded students at our 2016 state convention held in Murfreesboro, TN. I am dedicated to building the Federation and determined not to allow any obstacles to hinder my education or future goals. The scholarship will aid me tremendously as I continue my education this fall at Peabody College of Vanderbilt in their Professional Counseling program. As we all know, paying for an education is not easy or inexpensive. I appreciate the support and investment the Tennessee affiliate continues to give me. I am blessed to know both Quinn Howard and Shea Welch, who also won scholarships. We are the future and I believe with all my heart the future is bright in Tennessee!"

Katherine Shea Welch is a student at Belmont University. She is a member of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of NFB in Nashville. She is a rising senior majoring in classical vocal performance. Her current goal is to be a music teacher and a language coach. She was accepted into the Alpha Honors Fraternity, which only accepts the top 10 % of Belmont students in their junior year. She was an all-state music performer three years in a row. She is a member of the NFB Bell Program Board. She was awarded $1,000.00 as the first place winner. Shea says the following in response to winning a NFB of Tennessee State Scholarship,

"Dear NFB TN Family, I am so thankful and honored to have received an NFB TN scholarship this year, and so proud of all of your hard work and dedication to make such scholarships possible here in the Volunteer State. A special thank you to James Brown, John Harris, and the entire scholarship committee for making it happen, and to anyone who contributed to raising funds. Investing in education now is investing in professionalism in the future, and in the future of the NFB. I am excited to soon be one of those educated blind professionals, and will be ever grateful to the NFB of Tennessee’s contributions to my success, monetarily and otherwise. Congratulations to Jimmy and Quinn, my fellow scholarship winners! Blessings to both of you, especially in all your future scholastic and professional endeavors, and blessings to the NFB of Tennessee."

Congratulations to all of these winners! They will go on and do the NFB proud in their careers of choice. I would also like to thank my fellow scholarship committee members Sharon Treadway (Middle Tennessee Chapter, Nashville), Josh Harper, and Dwight Johnson from the Stones River Chapter.

Food, Fun, and Fellowship at the 2016 State Convention

Author: April Meredith

The Stones River Chapter hosted the 47 th Annual NFB State Convention on April 1 to April 3 at the Clarion Inn in Murfreesboro under the theme Rhythm of the Movement.

From the smiling faces handing out goodie bags at registration to the warm hugs goodbye upon departure, the convention was three days of delicious food, learning opportunities, great music, and bonding time. On Friday, activities kicked off strongly with a perfect balance of business and pleasure.

Attendees could interact with numerous vendors, participate in meetings or seminars, and play games. 3D Photo Works, Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, Lion ’s Club, and Kustom Cane were a few of the featured exhibitors providing convention goers a chance to review products and services beneficial to potential blind patrons.

The tasty pizza selection catered by the hotel restaurant Nobody’s along with Family Feud and Name That Tune games sponsored by the Tennesse e Association of Blind Students gave everyone a healthy dose of relaxation and laughter.

The excitement continued on Saturday an d included memorable testimonials, amazing musical performances, and informative lectures. Guest presentations covered a wide range of topics such as the NFB national report, Monzi McDaniel’s and HK Derryberry’s personal success stories, non-24 disorder, and Ring My Bell Academy. We heard excellent music from State President James Brown, JP Williams, and Quinn Howard during the general sessions and were treated to Steve Norman’s unforgettable saxophone skills at the dinner banquet. However, the events did not end there.

After an incredibly successful banquet where over $6200 worth of pledges were received and various awards were presented, many ended the evening festivities singing karaoke. The convention concluded on Sunday on a positive note. Representatives from each state chapter and other blind organizations gave annual reports, members voted to pass four resolutions, and the final round of door prizes were distributed to their lucky winners. The 2016 state convention demonstrated to all the NFB is alive and well in Tennessee.

TAGDU Seminar 2016

Author: Shea Welch

Dear TAGDU and friends of TAGDU, Before I say anything else, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Jimmy, our former (and first) president, who had the motivation, insight, and diligence to start TAGDU and get her off the ground. I am so thankful and proud of all his hard work, and beyond grateful that he is still on our board and will continue to be an invaluable wealth of knowledge, experience, and energy to help TAGDU keep growing.

Thanks to Jimmy and the rest of the board also for an awesome convention seminar. We had a great turn out and plenty of good discussion about training, canine health, and international travel with our guide dogs. If you missed our panel on international travel, check out the TAGDU seminar recording.

Please welcome our new board, President Shea Welch (myself), Vice President Stephanie Zundel, Secretary Steve Norman, Treasurer Ricky Jones, and Board Member James Boehm! I so look forward to collaborating with all of these wonderful, hard-working people in the coming months!

TAGDU has accomplished a great deal over the last few years, fr om working with law enforcement to school districts to transportation companies to ensure equal access for guide dog users and all service dog users across Tennessee. We will continue to focus on education and advocacy in these realms, with, I hope, a particular emphasis on local schools. Educating children on guide dogs and the rights of guide dog teams not only benefits children who may require a service dog in that school or school district, but it educates their parents, teachers, administrators, and the future professionals and public figures of our state.

In that vein, I would love to see TAGDU develop a program in which TAGDU members visit local schools and colleges from time to time to present about guide dogs. Beyond that, I hope to bolster our social media presence through Facebook, twitter, and youtube, and increase our membership and supporter base through these and other means. You can stay on top of our activities visiting the TAGDU Facebook.

Thank you for your support. Hang on to your harnesses friends! It’s going to be an exciting year!

TAGDU Hup-Up Seminar 2016

Author: Shep

This is Shep, the guide dog, reporting about a great experience I had recently at the Hup-Up Seminar on April 1st in Murfreesboro, TN. I just can’t quit barking about it! I was one of over 26 guide dogs present, and I think my tail wagged the whole time! I was reunited with some of my old peeps from the Seeing Eye in New Jersey, and I met some new guides that were so dog-gone friendly from Guiding Eyes for the Blind and Guiding Eyes.

There were lots of interesting new smells in that room, but I remained focused because I had my harness on, and I was in work mode. There was so much informatio n presented at the seminar that I couldn ’ t help but learn that TAGDU is a proud and active division of the National Association of Guide Dog Users and the NFB. We learned about traveling internationally and how a blind individual trains guide dogs.

My own vet, Tobe Singleton, even came to give some great health tips to the group! She’s so nice, and she has a heart for service dogs. I really appreciate Murfreesboro’s Pet Smart managers. They gave us so many door prizes! One couple walked out with a huge dog bed, and another family won a bag of dog food! My favorite prize was the oversized tennis ball with the squeaker inside! I could play fetch with that toy all day long!

I encourage anyon e with a guide dog, interested in a guide dog, or someone who wants to support guide dog users to join TAGDU! It’s so easy, I did it with one paw behind my back! Please send an email to the TAGDU president's email about joining the mailing list and to become a member. Don’t forget to join TAGDU’s Facebook page as well!

Well, it is time for Jimmy and I to run some errands and get ready for class. If you haven’t joined TAGDU yet, no worries! Now is the perfect time to join, with many great projects and educational outreach events coming up. We look forward to working with you and meeting you this year! Give my butt a sniff anytime... I mean come by and say hello anytime, and I’ll hopefully see you next year at our next Hup-Up seminar, to be held in Memphis in 2017! Keep those tails waggin’.

Audio Described Films From The Formerly Sighted Perspective – Dead Poets Society

Author: April Meredith

For this spring April issue, I decided to honor National Poetry Month by re-watching an iconic film from my childhood, the 1989 box office hit Dead Poets Society. I had not watched this movie since losing my functional sight, so this presented a perfect opportunity for me to compare my prior viewing experience to this one relying on audo description.

Because this is one of my personal favorite Robin Williams movies, I hoped that the audio description would live up to my high expectations. At the beginning, I was immediately impressed with the chosen audio describer. Tony Cook’s elegant British accent and distinct melancholy yet pleasant tone perfectly matched the bittersweet poetic essence of this film.

I did observe, however, the relatively limited use of description from that which I am accustomed. At first, I found this somewhat disappointing because I had to rely on my visual memory on such details as the design of the character's school uniforms, the exact image of a mural mentioned, and what the group of main characters looked like. This is a minor criticism, though, and in no way deterred from my enjoyment of the story.

In fact, one could argue that these details are not necessary at all and might possibly distract the viewer from focusing on the film’s main theme which perhaps may be best stated by the Williams character Professor Keating, "You must strive to find your own voice...cause the longer it takes, the less likely it is that you will ever find it."

The description is written and produced in a manner that carefully carves around the dialogue intensive drama, in my opinion, so as to allow the acting to speak for itself and respect the audience’s emotional journey. I believe sighted and blind watchers alike can share an equally satisfying viewing experience with Dead Poets Society. I especially recommend this passionate drama to all poetry lovers.

For those of you who may not be great fans of Shakespeare, Tennyson, or Whitman, I encourage you to set aside a couple of hours this month to watch or rewatch this excellent film with an open mind. I conclude my audio description review with this Keating quote, "We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Now medicine, law, and engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”