Students at Perkins School for the Blind may not have been able to see the vivacious blonde perform, but they hung on her every word and note, when jazz composer/pianist Lisa Hilton conducted a Master Class at the school earlier this year.
Encouraging the students to write music as well as play it, she told the advanced music students: "Music is about expressing what we feel inside. Think about something you’d like to express and how you can put that to sound. Create a story from that feeling you have inside."
Hilton has composed, recorded and produced seven CDs including more than sixty tracks of her jazz instrumental songs. "Just as you know what a person is like without seeing them, people can know what I express through my music without words," she said.
Perkins student Dan Nordin, 20, an aspiring professional musician, asked Hilton about the challenge of practicing complicated jazz pieces.
"When you think about practicing or playing, it’s time to do what you love. Think of your instrument or voice as playing; it should be fun, not work," she advised. She also recommended practicing at different times of the day. Sixteen-year-old pianist Samantha Lylis, agreed: "In the morning, playing music wakes you up and invigorates you, but after a long day at school, you may want to play to relax."
In addition to teaching the class, Hilton also gave a concert for all of Perkins students and staff. "Unfortunately, students with special needs are often overlooked, when they can benefit even more from music outreach programs than most kids," Hilton noted. "I’ve performed for children and teens without sight several times, and they are terrific to be around. Most kids love jazz; all they need is to be introduced to it and they’re happy and smiling."
"Lisa Hilton not only knows jazz, she knows how to communicate with kids," said Perkins President Steven M. Rothstein. "She inspired our musically talented students to be the best musicians they can be, and gave us all the chance to enjoy her music."
The first school for the blind in the country, Perkins educated Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Today Perkins serves 60,000 people who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired-from babies to school-age children to elders-here and in 55 developing countries around the world. For more information about Perkins, visit www.perkins.org
Lisa Hilton’s most recent CD is entitled, "My Favorite Things." Her website is: www.lisahiltonmusic.com