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Music festival aims to bring ‘good vibrations’ to people with hearing loss
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Good Vibrations Music Festival: Q&A with Emma Rudkin

Have you ever felt that a concert or festival hasn’t been accessible to you, due to your hearing loss? Would you dream of going to a fully-accessible deaf-aware festival? Guess what? It’s happening!

The‘Good Vibrations Music and Arts Festival’ is happening later this month in Texas, and I had the chance to talk to the festival organizer, Emma Rudkin about the event. 

Ellie: Hi Emma!  What inspired your non-profit, Aid the Silent, and yourself to host the fantastic Good Vibrations Music and Arts Festival?

Emma: I have had profound hearing loss since I was 3 years old. Around the time I was 14, I decided that I was no longer going to let hearing loss box me into what I could or could not do. Hearing loss made me who I am but does not define me. At that point, I started learning to play the piano, which led into playing guitar and singing. I could only hear about the middle “C” octave of the piano but realized I felt the notes and pitches through vibrations. Music became all about feeling and the visual experience.

Even if I cannot hear the words or beats of the music, I understand it is something to be felt with all the senses. I want to give this experience to others who are deaf/hard-of-hearing. This passion and desire of inclusion for the entire deaf and hard-of-hearing community, led the Aid the Silent team to pursue a dream of bringing the deaf community a sensory experience unlike any other.

Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival will be the first fully-encompassing deaf and hard-of-hearing (HOH) accessible concert designed to promote inclusion and unity within the hearing and deaf/HOH communities.

Ellie: Accessibility for Deaf/HOH people is totally important at music concerts and festivals, as it allows us to feel more included! I’ve been to a local concert a few years ago and it was like any other ordinary concert and I had to try and learn some of the headliners’ songs but I still wasn’t able to follow as there weren’t any lyrics etc.

Have you ever felt you haven’t been able to enjoy past concerts because of your hearing loss? What are your views on this?

photo courtesy: Emma Rudkin

Emma: One of my favorite things to do is to spontaneously attend concerts. About 4 years ago, one of my favorite bands, Penny & Sparrow (one of our headliners for GVMF), was on the up and coming, and opening for a famous band. My friend and I jumped in the car as soon as we found out for a 4-hour road trip. We spent a total of 8 hours in the car just to see them open for another band. Even though I feel the beautiful harmonies in music, I cannot understand the lyrics and have to push my way to the front always to lip read and feel the music from the speakers. I always strategically place myself right in front of the speakers.

Another example is when Les Miserables came out. I love the storyline but did not know the lyrics. In order to enjoy every precious moment and not feel lost in sound, I stayed up until 3am the night before to memorize all the songs.

I am always struggling at concerts and festivals to make my way to the front to be next to the speakers and to see the artists’ mouths. I have always longed for captioning and interpreting at concerts.             

Ellie: I know the exact same feeling! I always have to memorize songs too! How will the GVMAF provide accessibility for Deaf/HOH people?

Emma: This festival will be the first of its kind. Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival seeks to invite, include and accommodate all those who were born deaf or those affected by hearing loss. Through our festival, we seek to enhance and assist deaf and hard-of-hearing people in experiencing music through visual, tactile, and auditory enrichments such as real-time captioning; sign language interpretation; T-coiling, a looping technology that allows hearing-aid wearers to tune into the music directly; SubPacs, a transformative wearable audio technology that converts sound into high fidelity vibrations; and a synchronized LED dance floor that will harmonize and lights to the beats of the music.

The deaf and hard-of-hearing often experience being placed in a corner with captioning or interpreting, always on the outskirts of what is happening. Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival is placing them front and center, they are the guests of honor… it’s all for them and all about them, and all of our hearing friends happen to be invited as well.

“Through our festival, we seek to enhance and assist deaf and hard-of-hearing people in experiencing music through visual, tactile, and auditory enrichments”

Ellie: That all sounds absolutely amazing, I’d love to experience it myself! I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories about noise-induced hearing loss for hearing people, so they are encouraged to wear earplugs at concerts. How do those with hearing aids go about doing this? Have we just got to turn the volume lower or take our hearing aids out?

Emma: For me, the louder the better! If the music ends up being too loud, I have my hearing aids connected to an app so I can easily adjust and modify how much sound comes through. I have been to some concerts that are so loud that I turn just one hearing aid off.

Ellie: That’s a good way of being able to monitor sound entering your ears! It’s amazing to hear that the proceeds of the festival will go towards ‘Aid the Silent’, how will this benefit them?

Emma: Everything from the festival benefits Aid the Silent. We have the privilege of giving away great love in the form of hearing aids and other resources. There are children and teenagers all over the United States whose lives have been dramatically changed through the resources received through Aid the Silent. Aid the Silent assists deaf/HOH children and teens with the tools and resources for communication accessibility through assistive hearing devices, hearing aids, speech therapy, sign language, or faith-based camps and events. We focus on helping fund educational programs and trainings to help the deaf community. In addition, we support organizations that dedicate their efforts to finding treatments and technological advancements that benefit the deaf/HOH.     

Ellie: Wow, that’s inspiring! Have you personally been to an accessible concert/festival before? If yes, what was it like for you and how did it help? If no, how did this make you feel and why is this important towards making this GVMAF even better for deaf/HOH people?

Emma: I have never been to an accessible concert before. That is such a tragedy! I have been to some church services in sign language and I love watching worship and music being signed. The events through Aid the Silent are the first deaf-accessible events I’ve ever experienced. We love music so we always have artists perform at our 5K and other fundraising events.

The deaf deserve music to the fullest visual and emotional experience. Music is not limited to our ears. Everyone can enjoy and appreciate music, it just looks a little different for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. 

The deaf deserve music to the fullest visual and emotional experience. Music is not limited to our ears.

Ellie: I totally agree! I bet you’re looking forward to the festival yourself! Are there any exciting headliners for the festival? Any that you’re looking forward to most?

Emma: Artists include Ben Rector, Matt Wertz, Penny & Sparrow, Ryan Proudfoot, Brad Blackburn and myself. I am a personally big fan of each artist. I have listened to their music for years and I am especially excited for them to experience their encounter with deaf and hard-of-hearing people through a festival setting. They are going to think and view music entirely differently after performing at GVMF. It is going to change their lives!

“Artists include Ben Rector, Matt Wertz, Penny & Sparrow, Ryan Proudfoot, Brad Blackburn and myself.”

Ellie: That’s so great, as it benefits both deaf and hearing people! Imagine how much deaf-awareness the festival will provide! How many acts will be performing?

Emma: There are six acts in total. They are amazing people as well as artists. Each of them tell the most beautiful stories musically. The festival goes all day from 4pm-Midnight. There is 8 hours straight of music and lots of artisan and food booths. People are going to be in awe!

Ellie: Thanks so much for your time Emma, I can’t wait to see you there!

If you’re interested in going to the festival which is being held on Saturday, 20th May, in San Antonio, Texas, tickets can be purchased here!

 Can’t attend? Follow Ellie live from the event on HearingLikeMe on Snapchat.

Author Details
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak Sky Q hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn’t prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, previously working as a Marketing Executive and now as an Events Coordinator for a deaf organization, as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.