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February 9, 2003

Musicians play what they can't hear

From: Honolulu Advertiser, HI - 09 Feb 2003

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bass guitarist Ed Chevy loves playing his rock 'n' roll music hard and loud — though he may have trouble hearing it.

Steve Laracuente, left, singer and guitarist from The What, joins a practice session with the Beethoven's Nightmare band: Steve Longo on guitar, Bob Hiltermann on drums and Ed Chevy on bass. All of the musicians are deaf.
Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 'Ewa Beach resident is part of an all-deaf, professional touring rock band called Beethoven's Nightmare. Guitarist Steve Longo and drummer Bob Hiltermann, both of California, complete the trio.

"We don't hear the music, but our hearts can hear the music," said Chevy, 50, who lost his hearing when he was 3. "We play music from the heart."

Beethoven's Nightmare will be among the artists performing at tomorrow night's opening reception of the 19th annual Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities, an event being held "to increase awareness, accessibility and to dialogue and share information about issues on disabilities," said Shannon Simonelli, board member of VSA arts of Hawai'i-Pacific, one of the sponsoring organizations.

Chevy's band often hands out balloons when playing to help hearing-impaired audience members feel the vibrations of the music.

The musicians keep the beat to their original songs by following the second hand of a clock, using foot-tapping as a cue and watching each other closely to stay in sync.

Chevy describes the band's shows as a "visual musical theater. We use technology to help deaf people know music."

The trio uses black lights, strobe lights and mirrors to help deaf fans "see" the songs during performances. Their instruments are illuminated as well; Chevy demonstrated in the dark how lights on his bass guitar flicker as his fingers dance along the chords and strings.

Tomorrow's reception will showcase about 50 visual artists and 15 performing artists, including The What, another all-deaf band in which Chevy is a member. The local group includes lead singer and guitarist Steve Laracuente of Mililani and drummer Keoki Quijano of Village Park.

"Both (bands) share the same concept," Chevy said. "To tell the world that the deaf can play music, too."

Unlike Beethoven's Nightmare, which plays instrumental pieces, The What has a vocalist. A sign-language interpreter accompanies the group to such songs as the Rolling Stones' "As Tears Go By" and Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue."

While The What aims to please the deaf community, it also takes the hearing audience into consideration.

"When we play, we are concerned about our sound," Chevy said.

So he enlisted the help of his hearing friend and former musician Charlie Morris of 'Aiea, who goes to the band's practice sessions to give the guys pointers on things such as sound balance, volume and vocals.

The band may not rival regular bands, Morris said, but what they do is quite impressive.

"If I was deaf and I attempted to sing, I would not even come close to what they're doing," Morris said. "It's amazing."

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at or 535-8174.

Arts for All, All for Arts

• Opening reception for the 19th annual Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities

• 5:30-8:30 p.m. tomorrow

• Sheraton Waikiki Hotel

• $25; free for paid conference participants

• 945-1438