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Music festival aims to bring ‘good vibrations’ to people with hearing loss

For the first time, deaf and hard-of-hearing people will be able to fully experience a summer music festival, through visual, tactile and auditory enrichments, in a special event created specifically for them.

Good Vibrations Music and Arts Festival, which will be held May 20 in San Antonio, Texas, was born out of the desire to allow people with all levels of hearing loss to enjoy music.

“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,” says Emma Rudkin, the founder of the non-profit Aid the Silent, and organizer of the music festival. “I have always longed for captioning and interpreting at concerts.”

The music festival, she says, is the answer.

Artists including Ben Rector, Matt Wertz, Penny & Sparrow, Ryan Proudfoot, Brad Blackburn will perform at the one-day event, along with Emma herself, who plays piano and guitar, despite her profound hearing loss.

“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,” she says. “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.”

“Hearing loss made me who I am but does not define me.”

Rudkin says the festival will be fully inclusive, and have accessibility aspects including 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,” she says. “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.”

Phonak hEARo and HearingLikeMe.com blogger Ellie will reporting from the Good Vibrations Music Festival. Follow HearingLikeMe on Snapchat and on @Phonak social media channels to follow her experience!

Ellie Parfitt contributed to this article. Read Ellie’s full Q&A with Emma Rudkin, here. 

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Jill von Büren
Managing Editor Hearing Like Me
Jill is the social media community manager at Sonova and managing editor of Hearing Like Me.
She has a background in journalism, and passion for storytelling and connecting with people. When she's not immersing herself in the hearing loss community, she enjoys traveling, doing yoga and learning Swiss German.

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