Sign language interpreters add to Jazz Fest experience for the d - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Sign language interpreters add to Jazz Fest experience for the deaf

As hip hop pioneers Public Enemy unleashed an energetic Jazz Fest performance Friday, they got some help from sign language interpreters Holly Maniatty and Jenn Abbott.

Fans shot videos of their enthusiastic translations during the Public Enemy set, but both are taking part in dozens of performances during both weekends of the festival.

Their goal is to give deaf concert-goers a powerful experience by interpreting the lyrics, but also translating the raw emotion that comes from live music.

"You really have to know the artist and where they come from, their lyrics, the motivation behind their music and it's a huge challenge, so for me, I really kind of fell in love with the challenge," Maniatty said.

"All of the bands' messages are very different, so I want to make sure I'm matching whatever the band is doing so that our deaf patrons are getting that same experience as hearing patrons," Abbott said.

Maniatty performed during Bruce Springsteen's Jazz Fest set two years ago, and both women have traveled the country, sharing stages with some of the biggest names in music, including Billy Joel, Jay Z, Eminem, Hall & Oates and Wu Tang Clan.

Now, they're back at Jazz Fest and loving every minute.

"(Jazz Fest has) a huge commitment to making this music accessible to everybody, which is the spirit of New Orleans. The music is here, everybody should be able to experience it," Maniatty said. "(Jazz Fest) is unique in a way that it has a heart that people take a little bit of that back with them and to be able to give that to a deaf patron, to have them take a little of that back with them is amazing."

Maniatty and Abbott are part of a team of interpreters taking part in the Jazz Fest Access program, which also assists fans with mobility, vision and other limitations.

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