Words, music, and the sound of the wind are all vibrations – oscillating atoms that create waves that open our ear drums and bodies to the soundtrack of this world.
Aid the Silent, a Texas-based nonprofit, recently announced the Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival, an all-accommodating event geared toward the 15 million deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) individuals in Texas. The festival will take place rain or shine on May 20 from 4 p.m. to midnight at the 1850 Settlement.
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The full sensory experience comes in the form of subpacks, vibrating backpacks that connect to music and enhance vibrations so wearers feel them with more intensity. Add to that T-coils [wireless receivers that enhance sound], a moving and illuminated dance floor, interpreters, and captioning on big screens, and you have an experience that acts as an equalizer for all attendees.
The equipment will be available to all concert goers, thanks in great part to the support of the festival's key sponsors Cochlear Americas, Resound Hearing Aids, and the Ear Institute of Texas, all of whom Aid the Silent (ATS) co-founder Emma Faye Rudkin lauded for uniting to represent this diverse deaf and HoH community.
"This is the first all-deaf friendly music festival, really in the history of music festivals," Rudkin said. "It’s called Good Vibrations because the community experiences music not through [their] ears but through [their] bodies."
"I feel the vibrations through my arms and chest," Rudkin said of her piano, guitar, and singing capabilities. "After 10 years of speech therapy I can move my mouth in a way to create pitches and sing.” She's used her musical talent, dynamic stage presence, and role as Miss San Antonio in 2015 and 2017 to share ATS's mission on more than 20 television appearances.
At age 16, Rudkin moved to San Antonio with the dream of competing in the Miss America circuit and starting a nonprofit – she accomplished the latter that year.
"We founded Aid the Silent and within a month we already had international recognition," Rudkin said of the nonprofit that serves individuals ages 2-18 nationwide. “Families will apply for scholarships for hearing aids, as only 21 states cover them under health insurance. They’re very expensive, about $5,000-$10,000, and if people can’t afford them their children go without the resources they need.”
Fighting for deaf rights is a key component of ATS's efforts, especially in its deaf education branch.
"Right now 45% of this population graduates from high school, and only 5% graduate from college," Rudkin said of the current state the deaf and HoH community. "Statistics say that even if you graduate you will generally have about a 4th grade reading level, and be at a great disadvantage."
With the proper resources, a population that often feels lonely or marginalized can be empowered to speak up. Rudkin named her nonprofit Aid the Silent because she wanted to give "a voice to the voiceless.
“We work in four branches – deaf resources, deaf education, deaf ministry, and deaf research – these resources really change lives," said Rudkin, adding that she once was self-conscious of her voice.
Local musician and youth minister Proudfoot is not a member of the deaf or HoH community, but his life changed when he met Rudkin and the ATS family.
“The reason we make music is we want to share a message,” Proudfoot said. “To share a message with more people is always an opportunity I’m going to take.”
Proudfoot got involved with the organization through its annual 5K race, where he and Rudkin teamed for promotional efforts on television and across the community. “I get to share and be a voice for the ministry, essentially an ambassador,” he said. “Especially with a community that can’t hear as well, or may never have heard the message I’m getting ready to share, it’s really cool.
“God cares about all people, this is just another chance to love people that maybe haven’t been loved [enough],” Proudfoot said. “You’re bringing two groups together, the hearing and the non-hearing, and you’re saying, 'You’re equal, you’re all equal in this.'”