It never occurred to me that the person standing next to me at a show may not be able to hear what I hear, but they are able to feel what I feel. Let me explain, I have never had a friend who was deaf or hearing impaired, so I had never thought about what music would mean to someone who couldn't hear. What could music mean or be to someone who has never heard, someone who was born deaf or maybe became deaf at a young age? I truly could not answer that question, but I just met someone who can. Sean Forbes is a local artist who is deaf. He has started a charity call D-PAN and has put out music for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Sean became deaf shortly after birth and was still able to teach himself how to play drums and guitar. He opened up my eyes and made me realize that music also connects the hearing to those that can't hear, because even if we don't hear the same thing music can make us feel the same thing. Please take a minute to read my interview with Sean and learn a little bit more about him and his foundation. Once you do I promise you will be blown away by how amazing and truly talented he is. He will be debuting D-PAN's latest release this Friday at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale, and I guarantee you will want to support what he is doing. The benefit starts at 7 p.m. and all ages are welcome to attend. Tickets will be $20 in advance and $25 at the door. You can purchase tickets at dpandetroit.eventbrite.com. Sean will be preforming live along with other artists, and word has it there may be some bands featuring horns (I love horns!). Halloween costumes are encouraged and ASL music videos will be played for all to enjoy.
Hip In Detroit- Were you born hearing impaired or did you become hearing impaired?
Sean- "Hearing impaired is not the right terminology, I preferred to be called deaf whereas the community as a whole likes to be represented as the "Deaf and Hard Of Hearing Community". For a more in depth analysis of this please read an article by my guitarist Mark Levin: http://limpingchicken.com/2013/09/23/mark-levin-lets-eradicate-the-term-hearing-impaired/ "
I was born hearing and became deaf at a year old as the result of a high fever."
Hip In Detroit- How do you communicate with others? Do you read lips or use sign language?
Sean- "I am lingual meaning that I communicate both in American Sign Language and I speak for myself as well. Depending on the mode of communication of any specific person I communicate with I chose that mode, sometimes I communicate solely through sign language or sometimes I solely speak..... when I perform I do both and this is not an "accepted" form of communication as sign language is not a spoken language, but I look at my performances as "works of art" and it amazes people that I'm able to speak and sign at the same time, it's like using both sides of my brain.... like walking and chewing gum."
Hip In Detroit- How old were you when you started playing music?
Sean- "I got my first drumset when I was five and it's been love ever since then. I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 10. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I realized that if I wanted to do something with music I was going to have to think outside the box and do something drastically different."
Hip In Detroit- I read you play drums and guitar. I guess I can understand drums, but how does one learn an instrument like guitar when you can't hear what your playing? How do you tune a guitar?
Sean- "Playing guitar is all about feeling, the way a song moves, the way you want the groove to go, or the melody in a song.... anyone can play guitar, but how you can move someone with a guitar is what makes listening or feeling it great. I can see how someone is playing, having played guitar extremely loud for many years gave me a sense of what I'm feeling when I watch someone play guitar. I can't tune a guitar on my ears, but I do own a tuner and can tell when I play a guitar when it's out of tune, usually I'll look at a hearing person and shoot then a weird face and they'll respond, 'yeah, it's really out of tune.'"
Hip In Detroit- When did you start D-PAN and why?
Sean- "I started D-PAN back in 2005 because growing up in a musical family, I felt really lucky to be involved with something that my family was so passionate about. When I was in high school I didn't have a lot of other deaf and hard of hearing friends who enjoyed music. It wasn't until I was a college student at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) where NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) is located that I started to realize that there were many others who appreciated and enjoyed music. I would often sign songs to my friends so that they could be involved in music and it was those moments that inspired me to want to setup D-PAN."
Hip In Detroit- D-PAN's page talks about "feeling music" the same way I hear it, can you explain that to me?
Sean- "Music is all about feeling, the way you feel it in your soul, but also how you feel it physically. Many of us like to turn up the music extremely loud and bump along to it, just like anyone else. Any musician who writes a great song wants you to "FEEL" it not just "listen" to it..... if you don't feel it then it's probably not a great song."
Hip In Detroit- Are there certain instruments or types of music that you "feel"more?
Sean-"Drums and bass are the most prominent."
Hip In Detroit- Tell us about the DVD you are releasing, It's Everybody's Music Volume 2.
Sean- "This new DVD continues in the tradition of D-PAN making music accessible for the deaf community. On this DVD we have 6 new music videos "Fireflies" by Owl City, "We're Going To Be Friends" by the White Stripes, "You Brought The Sunshine" by the Clark Sisters, "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen along with an original song and video called "Watch These Hands" which I wrote and another song by a deaf and hearing couple called "Parents, Nothing More". I'm excited about this DVD and can't wait to show more of what D-PAN is doing. We host camps for deaf and hard of hearing kids to get involved in music and creating music videos with sign language. I never dreamed in a million years we would be doing this and I love this part of my job."
Hip In Detroit- What are some of your favorite acts around Detroit and what do you love about them?
Sean- "My access to music is very limited, in order for me to follow along I have to know the lyrics. I'm good friends with people like Tino Gross from the Howling Diablos, Johnny "Bee" Badnajek from Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Vinnie Dombrowski from "Sponge" and many more..... I've known these guys pretty much my entire life and they've been a part of this journey. I also like those guys from Wilson, they put on a pretty bad ass show."