Deaf music interpreter shines at ACL Fest

For those who are hearing impaired -- and even for those who aren't -- interpreters always put on quite the show alongside ACL Fest performers.

AUSTIN - The fashion, the food and the photos are all a part of what makes the Austin City Limits Festival one of the hottest tickets in town.

Many would argue the number one reason 75,000 people attend every day is the music; by artists from Ice Cube to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

For the deaf community, sign language music interpreters are key to helping them understand the emotion and feeling beyond the music.

JoAnn Benfield has interpreted music for four years, but she is even more unique than her colleagues. She is deaf.

"I have residual hearing in my right ear," she told KVUE's Tina Shively through an interpreter.

Benfield's turned that small bit of sound she can hear into a career as ACL's only Deaf sign language music interpreter.

In the weeks before the show she does a lot of research.

"The history of the artist themselves, the background they bring to the music, the song itself that they write what does that mean. Different people's perspective of the music as listeners," she signed.

Benfield also has a so-called "feeder" below the stage in case a technical issue prevents her from hearing the lyrics.

Female voices sound the most clear to her.

Benfield interpreted seven ACL shows this year alone. That's no small task for even the most skilled interpreters.

Not only is it very physical, it takes mental stamina too.

"It's like a baseball player being asked to do a basketball player's job or vice versa," she said. "They both have athletic abilities, but their skill sets are completely different.  With me, I have music in my veins, I've had it for a long time."

Benfield said she's been signing music since she was knee high, and doesn't plan on quitting any time soon.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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