ASL Interpreters Bring ACL Fest’s Music Alive for Deaf Community

ASL Interpreters Bring ACL Fest’s Music Alive for Deaf Community

By Russell Wilde

October 5, 2015

If you’ve been near Zilker Park this weekend, you’ve probably heard the booming sounds of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. But there is more than one way to experience the music. Our Russell Wilde shows us how members of the deaf community also enjoy the festival.

Jo Rose Benfield’s love of music has made ACL Fest a must see event, even though her experience is unique.

“At home I listen to music, and of course, I enjoy it. But here, it’s incredible — it’s an A to Z experience,” Benfield signed, as an ACL interpreter relayed aloud. “I’m deaf myself and I love music. I get to feel the vibrations. Also the interpreters ther, they facilitate what’s being sung to us.”

At music festivals such as ACL, American Sign Language interpreters like Amber Galloway Gallego, have taken interpretation and turned it into performance art.

Full Coverage: ACL Music Festival 2015

“We take that energy that comes from the artist and it comes through our signs to the deaf community, as well as all the energy that comes through the crowd that is coming back,” said Gallego.

Concert interpreters study lyrics as well as the artist’s performances to help communicate the on-stage experience of a band, such as Alabama Shakes — one of the groups performing on Day 2 of the festival.

“She (Lead singer Brittany Howard) has that soulfulness and that grit and we have to be able to show that. The way that we do that is with tonality, and for that tonality we’re going to do that with our expressions,” said Gallego.

Those expressions go beyond the words spoken.

“They take the guitar and they actually communicate with us with their guitar. Gary Clark Jr., he makes it talk,” said Gallego.

Benfield has gone from attending ACL MUsic Festival as a fan to interpreting on stage for others.

“Deaf people really do enjoy music too and especially someone like me, I’ve grown up all my life with music. I’m a performer and now I get to add interpreting as well to the mix and it’s just a wonderful experience,” she signed.

It’s an experience Benfield gets to share with the entire ACL community.


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