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Staunton Media Lab Releases 4 CDs of Thumb Piano Music by Dr. Cornelius Pianeer

The Karimba -- A two-tiered thumb piano with rattles on the keys.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve O'Keefe, 540-324-7023

Staunton Media Lab Releases 4 CDs of Thumb Piano Music by Dr. Cornelius Pianeer, Legendary Master of the Thumb Piano

Enjoy the Soothing Sounds of Kalimba, Karimba, Sansula,Tamboola and More!

(Staunton, VA — January 18, 2018) Today the Staunton Media Lab released a much-anticipated series of recordings by the legendary master of the Appalachian thumb piano, Dr. Cornelius "Thumbs" Pianeer. The four CDs contain over 200 minutes of music from 33 field recordings and studio recordings on a single USB Flash Drive (or "Thumbs Drive") which the Staunton Media Lab retails for $29.

Dr. Cornelius "Thumbs" Pianeer is an Appalachian American who lives in the mountains of Virginia near Lake Moomaw. A virtuoso of the African thumb piano, Dr. Pianeer says he plays "Appalachian style," with double keys, rattles and "mountain tunings" to generate a sound that is both authentic and mesmerizing.

Dr. Pianeer busks at public events around the Eastern U.S. but prefers to play in remote locations where he can dialogue with insects and birds. You'll hear these amazing duets on tunes such as Ambient Appalachian Trail, Cicada Song and Ambient Audioscape with Sansula and Birds.

The Sansula is a Dutch thumb piano used in music therapy throughout Europe. It is particularly useful for teaching music to deaf students who feel the vibrations of the keys and can readily play and compose. It's also an easy starter instrument for children.

Dr. Pianeer, a retired teacher, says he uses his thumb piano in the service of healing. "When folks hear the thumb piano," he says, "it quiets 'em down so they can lose their worries in the rhythm of the keys." Dr. Pianeer plays several thumb pianos of his own design, including the Tamboola and the hypnotic Sandman Thumb Piano.

Dr. Pianeer never made any recordings until he ran into audio engineer Coley Evans at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. All 33 recordings on the Thumbs Drive were made in the past two years and engineered at the Staunton Media Lab. Some are studio pristine and others were recorded by Dr. Pianeer in the field with a phone. Audio engineer Coley Evans cleaned them up as much as possible.

Dr. Cornelius Pianeer hopes to get a professional recording contract for his next Thumbs Drive. He is represented by the Staunton Media Lab. For more information, contact Steve O'Keefe, email steve dot okeefe at StauntonMediaLab dot com or phone 540-324-7023.

What's On the Thumbs Drive?

Disk 1: Dr. Cornelius Pianeer
Plays the Karimba

The legendary master of the thumb piano, Dr. Cornelius "Thumbs" Pianeer plays a Karimba on this CD of ambient world music. The Karimba is manufactured by the Hugh Tracey company in South Africa. It is similar to a Kalimba thumb piano, except it has metallic rattles attached to the keys.

1. Introduction (1:28)
2. Karimba In The Studio (1:28)
3. Ditty for Daniel (7:21)
4. Thumbiana (15:22)
5. Rumble Thumbs (7:21)
6. Five Points (4:47)
7. Good Morning Mt. Gretna (17:56)
8. Ambient Appalachian Trail (04:42)

Disk 2: Dr. Cornelius Pianeer
Plays Kalimba and Sansula

The master of the thumb piano, Dr. Cornelius "Thumbs" Pianeer, plays the Kalimba and the Sansula on this CD of ambient world music. The Kalimba thumb piano is manufactured by the Hugh Tracey company in South Africa. The Sansula thumb piano is manufactured by the Dutch company Hokema.

1. Electric Thumb Piano (01:13)
2. The Cicada Song (01:19)
3. Calling All Cicadas (08:03)
4. Outdoor Art (4:24)
5. Little Nichols (2:19)
6. Nichols Arboretum (11:51)
7. Ambient Audioscape with
Sansula and Birds (6:49)

Disk 3: Dr. Cornelius Pianeer
Plays Ambient Thumb Piano

Take a stroll with legendary kalimba master Thumbs Pianeer through America's parks and public spaces. On this CD, Dr. Pianeer captures the sounds of Morningside Park in New York City, Anderson Park in Montclair, New Jersey, and other ambient locations. On these recordings, Thumbs plays 8-note kalimba, a 17-note treble celeste kalimba, and the fiery two-tiered karimba.

1. Crows (3:25)
2. Preachin' (2:47)
3. Ambient Anderson (7:11)
4. Andersong (1:35)
5. Morningside (7:52)
6. Morning Stroll (11:49)
7. Morning Run (4:29)
8. Rush Hour (9:41)
9. Little Nichols in NYC (4:26)

Disk 4: Dr. Cornelius Pianeer
Plays Exotic Thumb Piano

Legendary thumb pianist Dr. Cornelius Pianeer has been known to make or modify thumb pianos to get exciting new sounds. On this recording, Dr. Pianeer experiments with the Sandman Thumb Piano he invented (it uses a "sandbox" rattle), a homemade Tamboola (a combo tambourine/sansula), a couple vintage thumb pianos, and the amazing karimba.

1. Tamboola (11:50)
2. Seventeen (4:11)
3. Clawfoot (3:03)
4. Sandman (5:20)
5. Vintage (1:36)
6. Slow Dance (3:37)
7. Sizzle Reel (8:12)
8. Cloudburst (06:49)
9. The Amazing Karimba (3:54)

The Hidden Side of Helen Keller

Helen Keller in 1920

A Book Review by Steve O'Keefe
Executive Director of the Staunton Media Lab

Out of the Dark: Essays, Letters, and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision
by Helen Keller
Kessinger Publishing Rare Reprints
ISBN 1437234704, 282 pages, hardcover
Originally published in 1920 by Doubleday, Page & Company
Picture of Helen Keller in 1920 courtesy Wikimedia Commons

If you only know Helen Keller as the deaf blind girl who learns language at the water pump, you don't know Helen Keller. That willful little girl grew up into a willful woman suffragette who spoke with her hands loudly enough to be heard around the world. This book reveals the hidden side of Helen Keller which has nearly been erased from history.

The Miracle Worker is the name of a book, a play and movie about the young Helen Keller. The miracle worker of the title is not Helen Keller but her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who taught Keller to finger spell and sign, and to write and read Braille. Sullivan was herself blind for a number of years but regained her sight. The Miracle Worker doesn't tell what happened after Helen Keller learned to read.

The Wikipedia version of the Helen Keller story is that she went on to graduate from college, became an advocate for the blind and eventually a much-loved worldwide ambassador for the disabled. The hidden story is quite a bit different.

I had heard that Helen Keller had become a radical Socialist firebrand who was a thorn in the side of several U.S. Presidents. I had heard that she wrote books later in life that were banned and are now unavailable. I searched online and only found hints about Helen Keller's Socialist writings. One day, passing through Alabama for the 45th time, I decided to visit the Helen Keller Home at Ivy Green -- including the famous water pump where she learned to talk using the tingling of her palms -- and to find out more about these forbidden texts.

I should have known it was a fool's errand. Tuscumbia, Alabama, is not the place one would expect to find works by the beloved matriarch of the disabled on the subjects of economics, politics and the labor struggle. Let me make this shockingly clear: The Helen Keller Home does not display any of the books Helen Keller wrote herself, except for The Story of My Life, which was co-written by Keller and Anne Sullivan while Keller was in college. The only books in the Helen Keller Home gift shop and book store are by other people, such as The Miracle Worker, and books about her interpreters, Anne Sullivan (until 1936) and Polly Thompson (until 1960). Keller died in 1968 at the age of 88, outliving both her beloved companions.

The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm

 Staunton Media Lab Unveils ARMi Assistive Technology Arm        

ARMi Brings Tech Tools Within Reach of Disabled

Putting 1,000 helping hands into homes this holiday season.

(Staunton, VA — September 1, 2017) On Friday, September 1, the Staunton Media Lab will debut a breakthrough in assistive technology — the ARMi Assistive Technology Arm — putting advanced technology within reach of the disabled.

The ARMi (short for "Advanced Recreational Media Interface") is a portable, mechanical arm that allows for "hands-free" use of smartphones, tablet computers, remote controls, and other useful devices. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm also holds many devices useful for disabled or mobility-challenged persons, including a mirror, a magnifying glass and a magnetic plate.

The ARMi was developed as an inexpensive document reader for the blind. Document readers for the blind can cost several thousand dollars — too expensive for many who need them. However, smartphones that cost less than $100 can read documents to the blind — if the person has help holding the phone. The ARMi Assistive Technology Arm provides those helping hands. With the ARMi and a smart phone, blind persons can easily position the phone and have books and documents read out loud by the phone.

The ARMi begins selling on Amazon October 1 for only $99. However, during the month of September, the ARMi is available for only $69 through Kickstarter. Supplies are limited to 1,000 units.

How Does a Blind Person Edit Video?

Image of blind video editor Coley Evans

The Staunton Media Lab (SML) is pleased to present a new video release entitled How Does a Blind Person Edit Video? Watch as SML Audio Director Coley Evans, who is blind from birth, edits a video using Windows Movie Maker.

SML hopes you will share this extraordinary video. It's built around a screen capture from Coley's first effort at video editing. You are seeing something even Coley can't see: what it looks like when a blind person edits video.

 How Does a Blind Person Edit Video? was made with the following process:

  • Coley downloads video from YouTube and opens in Windows Movie Maker
  • Coley starts the screen capture program, Screencastify, which makes a movie of his desktop
  • The screen capture movie is converted to MP4 using VLC software
  • Video of Coley editing video without a monitor or a mouse was added
       (Shot with a Canon HD Cam saved to an SD card)
  • Video of short interview with Coley was added
       (Shot with a Sony MiniDV Cam to an EZ Grabber capture card to OBS)
  • Music was downloaded from a credited source of copyright-free music
  • Two synthetic, machine-generated voices are heard in this video
  • The final video was edited by Devon Donis, Video Editor at SML, using Adobe Premier
  • Directed by Steve O'Keefe, SML Executive Director
  • Produced by Staunton Media Lab — Video & Audio Editing by the Deaf, Blind and Uniquely Able

Copyright-Free 2017 by Staunton Media Lab. Please feel free to download and distribute this video as long as the contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact. Thank You!

How Can You Help?

Volunteer.  We need you! Do you know sign language? Do you know Braille? Do you know English? Do you have language? Then SML needs you! Call us at 540-324-7023, or email

A Wish Goes A Long Way

Amazon logo 8We are a vocational program in the media arts for the deaf, blind and uniquely able. Please support our programs, and check out our Wish List at Amazon.com.

Staunton Media Lab - Copyright 2018