Amber Galloway Gallego has had a front-row seat to concerts featuring an array of popular artists — from Snoop Dogg to Drake and Adele to Kendrick Lamar.
But she wasn’t an audience member at those shows.
Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter who brings music to life for concert-goers who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Standing at the side of the stage while artists perform to thousands, Galloway Gallego — who is hard of hearing — furiously gestures and contorts her face to describe the music and the lyrics to those who can’t hear.
But it’s not as simple as one might think.
She doesn’t just sign the lyrics. She gives deaf listeners the ability to understand the different sounds. Speaking through an interpreter, she explained the intricacies of signing each instrument.
“If you’ve got the bass you know that’s a lower frequency,” she said, bringing her arms down and mimicking the deep, thumping sound the instrument makes. “There’s all types of instruments that have a voice and they play a role.”
“People think ‘Oh well she’s just doing air guitar’ and that’s not what I’m doing. I’m communicating. It’s part of the language.”
Originally from Texas, she’s been interpreting concerts for almost 19 years. Now she’s bringing her talents to Regina to teach a workshop to inspire more people to do the work.
Galloway remembers the frustrations her deaf friends felt when attending concerts.
“They were telling me they didn’t have positive music experiences with interpreters,” she said. “I realized there needed to be some improvement in the work of interpretations and access to the music.”
Amber Galloway, ASL music interpreter, teaches a music interpreting workshop at The Exchange and in Regina.
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She said the service supports the deaf and hard of hearing community because they’re a marginalized community.
“They’re always fighting for access to communication,” she said. “They can’t immerse themselves (in music). That’s why it’s important that we have this process of taking down those barriers, so that everybody — regardless of whether they can hear or not hear — is able to access that same experience.”
The workshop is beneficial to people like Sue Schmid, who’s been a community ASL interpreter for 38 years. She’s interpreted at events such as We Day, Pride festival concerts as well as weddings and funerals.
“I wanted to explore this part of my work,” she said. “Looking at the lyrics, trying to find the deeper meaning in lyrics and how to then properly portray that song or the intent of the writer.”
“It’s something we can’t just assume that because (deaf and hard of hearing people) have limited hearing or no hearing, they wouldn’t appreciate (music). Music speaks to our souls and we have members of our community that rally enjoy music.”
Schmid said it takes significant amount of preparation to be able to interpret at events.
Sue Schmid, ASL interpreter, takes part in a music interpreting workshop at The Exchange and in Regina.
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“Knowing what you need to look for ahead of time,” she said. “You go in there already knowing the script … so that you’re not up there stumbling.”
Schmid has attended interpreting workshops before, but never anything like this. She’s found many ways to incorporate Galloway Gallego’s work into her’s.
“The importance of identifying what type of rhythm or music that’s being heard when words aren’t being sung,” she said. “What does it look like if there’s an instrumental piece?”
Growing up listening to artists like Snoop Dogg and Lady of Rage, Galloway Gallego eventually got to interpret for their concerts.
“To interpret for them was very touching for me,” she said, adding she’s also gotten to sign for older generations.
“The memories of them listening to that music when they were younger and then to be able to sign it when they’re older, it just makes those impacts.”
Galloway Gallego and the participants of the workshop will interpret two concerts — featuring The Hurry Hards and D’PlayGround — at The Exchange Friday evening. The performance starts at 7 p.m.