Frank Senior, who lives in Building 6 in Co-op City, is hoping that fellow residents will vote for his multi-award-winning documentary, Sound of Vision, which is one of 25 short films in the PBS 2013 Film Festival competing for a coveted People’s Choice Award.
Senior is a talented jazz vocalist who was born blind. His repertoire includes jazz, blues, standards and gospel.
Sound of Vision, which aired on PBS on Monday, March 8 and can now be streamed at PBS.org, is an 8-minute documentary about a blind man’s journey to belong. The film was shot partially in Co-op City where Senior has lived for 17 years, as well as in other parts of the city.
In the film, Senior describes the challenges he faces on a daily basis as a blind man navigating life in the city that never sleeps, admitting, “I’m lost all the time.” He shares that he was born in Harlem and raised on 135th Street in the Lincoln Projects.
“I had fantastic parents who made sure that I was part of the neighborhood, not isolated from anyone,” said Senior. “They really encouraged me to go outside and play with other kids, made sure I had guitar lessons. They didn’t buy me crayons with paper, they bought me finger paints so I can play with that. That was the beginning of who I am.”
Senior talks about the fear he feels as a blind person venturing out into a world that is dark to him, nevertheless, he says that when he wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t just sit there and dwell on his fear of going out and doing things. “It’s the challenge that drives me,” he said. “And as the day goes on, it drives me. It’s the cycle of my life.”
He also talks about his love of New York City with all of its nuances.
“Your sight is so powerful that you’re looking ahead, not paying attention to the moment. If that’s a gift, it’s a beautiful gift,” Senior said. “I don’t say it’s at tradeoff for what sight is. I would love to be able to look around the room, or look down the bar and I think that’s one of the reasons why I like to sing because I know that at least that singing is covering a whole room because I want to prove to myself that I belong.”
Senior, who celebrated his 60th birthday in Co-op City’s Dreiser Auditorium last Saturday, March 9 with a host of friends and neighbors, credits his late parents, Leonard and Eleanor Senior, for introducing music to him at a very young age. He also counts artists such as Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, James Brown, Sly Stone and Ella Fitzgerald among those who influenced his musical style.
In addition to being in the PBS 2013 Film Festival, Sound of Vision was also accepted into the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival, which runs from March 15-March 24. Sound of Vision was a 2012 finalist in the annual International Documentary Challenge, winning the 2012 Audience Award, as well as the USA POV Award, the Jury Award for Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Use of the Experimental Genre.
Senior was also the subject of another documentary, Just Be Frank, which was screened for the 2010 Harlem International Film Festival, 2011 Aspen Shortsfest, 2011 Gold Coast International Film Festival, 2011 Palm Spring International Shortfest and the 2012 Melbourne, Australia—The Other Film Festival.
Frank Senior also has a CD entitled Let Me Be Frank on the market and he is currently in the studio working on another musical project. He is also a guest vocalist on Jacob Melchior’s It’s About Time and Jamhunters: Music Speaks Louder Than Words. In the past, he was featured in the Co-op City NEW SEASONS Jazz Concert Series, which was organized by another Co-op City resident, Mary Pearson, also an accomplished jazz vocalist. Frank has also performed at the Universal Jazz Center, Gracie Mansion, the Village Gate, Bryant Park, Sweetwater’s and the Blue Note, to name a handful of his performance venues.
He has worked with such musical legends as Frank Owens, Earl May, Barry Harris, Harold Maybern, Dakota Staton, Abbey Lincoln, Kenny Baron, Harry Whitaker, George Coleman and Harold Ousley, to name afew, and has won several awards and honors for his work through the years, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award.
On his website, Senior states, “These days, I’m performing more than ever, and it’s what I love!…Music is my life, singing is my love.” At the same time, while he’s confident that his fans will continue to support his musical journey, he is also asking that they support Sound of Vision by voting for the short film through March 22 at www.pbs.org/filmfestival/vote/. Click on the “All Films” icon to view Sound of Vision and then go to the “Vote” page to cast your ballot for the documentary. The film with the most votes will receive the People’s Choice Award, which will be announced on April 2. This information can also be accessed from Frank’s website, www.franksenior.com, where his performance calendar is also listed, as well as much more information about Frank’s life, music and incredible accomplishments.
Senior’s message to his neighbors is simple, “Please help me to bring this award home to Co-op City.”