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January 26, 2003

Woman has a hand in Super Bowl translation

From: Salem Statesman Journal, OR - 26 Jan 2003

A former resident of Salem will do sign-language versions of two pregame songs.

Statesman Journal
January 26, 2003

Special to the Statesman Journal
Janet Maxwell, a 1986 McNary High School graduate, will interpret two songs into sign language at today’s Super Bowl.

Joe and Sally Maxwell will be glued to the television this afternoon at their Keizer home, in anticipation of Super Bowl XXXVII.

It isn’t the game or the commercials that interest them in the most-watched single-day sporting event of the year. It’s the pregame show.

Their daughter, Janet Maxwell, will be the sign-language interpreter for the performances of “God Bless America” and the national anthem.

“We are very proud of her,” Sally said via e-mail. “She has worked very hard to reach the top.”

Janet isn’t deaf, but her parents are. They won’t be able to hear the words sung by Celine Dion and the Dixie Chicks; instead, they hope to see their daughter express those words to the deaf community around the world.

The big question is whether ABC chooses to give the 1986 McNary High School graduate camera time.

“It’s totally a network decision,” pregame producer Roddy White said. “Some years they have shown the interpreter; some years they haven’t.”

The 70,000 spectators inside Qualcomm Stadium won’t miss Janet in action. White said the person who does the sign language usually gets ample time on the stadium big screens.

For the past three years, Janet has lived in San Diego, the host city of this year’s Super Bowl.

She will share the stage with two Grammy Award winners as they perform in front of an expected 130 million television viewers in the United States and 800 million viewers worldwide.

“It’s a great way to pay homage to the city I live in and the community I’ve been so blessed to be born into,” Janet said.

The 34-year-old comes from a family of five generations of deafness on her mother’s side.

She learned her first sign language when she was about 8 months old. By the time she was 1, she could sign many words, her mother said.

The family moved to Salem when Janet was 10. Her father was hired to teach at Oregon School for the Deaf, where he retired from in 1994. Janet attended public schools in Keizer and later Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

Janet has been a professional interpreter for 15 years. She works for two deaf professors at the University of California at San Diego and does free-lance work.

Previously, she worked in the Washington, D.C., area, where she had some high-profile assignments.

She has interpreted for Presidents Bush — both father and son — as well as President Clinton, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. She also has signed for actors and musicians.

Janet was recommended for this assignment by the Super Bowl host committee. She had to provide the NFL with letters of recommendation and a demo video tape.

Although the national anthem is considered one of the most difficult songs to sing, Janet said signing the lyrics is much easier.

“With the exception of one line,” she said.

That would be the fourth line: “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”

“It’s very difficult to translate, to express,” Janet said, adding that she has worked with deaf consultants to polish her interpretation of the line.

In addition to her parents, Janet expects other family members and friends to be tuned in for the pregame show.

Signing at the Super Bowl ranks among her list of career highlights.

“Through all my interpretation experiences, this will be the last big thing I always wanted to accomplish,” she said. “There’s no other sports event in the world that presents equal access to the deaf community.”

Copyright 2003 Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon