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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Singing to the deaf

Edie Jackson, music interpreter for the deaf

Edie Jackson does that.

Yes, deaf people do love music, they just hear it in a different way.

Thanks to Edie and others with her talents, this love of song is not exclusive to those who hear. Music is universal in appeal and where there is a will to 'hear,' there is a way.

Born blind and deaf, Helen Keller proved that many years ago. Wanna cry? Yes you do. See the moment she first understands here. It's worth the short detour. 

The Miracle Worker is the 1962 story of Anne Sullivan's struggle to teach young Helen Keller how to communicate. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke won Academy Awards for their brilliant performances.

Edie Jackson, when she isn't interpreting for the deaf at concerts, teaches the profoundly deaf and the hard of hearing and interprets for them on a one-on-one basis.

At concerts, she is either on stage or on a platform near the stage. She signs the lyrics and tries to convey the visual imagery in ways that the hearing would take for granted.

In a New York Times interview, Jackson says she "tries to rein it in since the show is about the musicians, not me. My dancing has purpose, though. The severely deaf patrons who are feeling the music may rely on me to show them what instrument is being played, the emotion and tempo and the highs and lows. I may let my fingers be the keyboard, my shoulder the bass, and so on.

"I learn the lyrics for all the music." She talks with the singers beforehand to be sure she conveys the right emotions but she also has to be ready for impromptu guitar riffs or singer's ad-libs. She interprets mostly for the band Widespread Panic but her highlight was at Jazz Fest 2012 in New Orleans "when Bruce Springsteen jumped onto my platform and danced and signed a bit of Dancing in the Dark with the other interpreter and me."  This is that moment.

"Concerts are so much more than words and melodies," she says. "Both deaf people and those who can hear go to socialize and enjoy the visual feast. Everyone has the right to music. I'm glad I can help."

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