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Of the Oakland Press

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It may seem like an unusual notion, but in Ferndale the Deaf Performing Artists Network (D-PAN) is working to make sure that there's music for the deaf and profoundly hard of hearing, too.

"That's a frequent question, but the bottom line is that the only thing a deaf person can't do is hear," explains D-PAN co-founder Joel Martin, who manages the Romantics and whose 54 Sound studio has long been Eminem's main recording base.

"The deaf and deaf community still get influence from music and MTV, especially the younger end. Many people are shocked to know that deaf kids go to concerts and get as much out of them culturally as anybody else except hearing the music. But they can feel the music and see and smell and experience the cultural influences the same way any other teenager does.

"So they're as much a part of this culture and popular culture as anybody else. They've just been excluded before."

D-PAN was born in 2005 at the suggestion of Sean Forbes, the son of the Forbes Brothers' Scott Forbes, who interned with Martin while home on summer break from the Rochester School for the Deaf in New York. He pitched Martin and Eminem on a sign-language video for the rapper's hit "Lose Yourself," which launched D-PAN as a full-time endeavor.

The company has since made four signed videos -- "Lose Yourself" (performed for the video by Sponge), Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go," Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" and John Mayer's "Waiting For the World to Change," the latter of which is a particularly powerful treatment that serves as a signature piece for D-PAN. Martin says the videos have scored more than 500,000 hits on YouTube and more than a million on D-PAN's own web site.

D-PAN is just releasing its first DVD, which adds five community-made videos of songs by James Brown, the Killers, All-American Rejects and others. The release party tonight in Ferndale will also debut a new Feel The Music technology being developed at the University of Michigan that allows the deaf and profoundly hearing-impaired to feel musical vibrations even more vividly; the school is offering a $10,000 prize for any student that can create a portable product for manufacture.

Besides serving a previously disenfranchised community, D-PAN's Martin notes that it also "creates a market that was not there before for the record companies and for the deaf performers. We need to prove it's viable and we can sell 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 copies (of the DVD) to be self-sufficient. We're really at the beginning of this, still."

The Deaf Performing Artists Network celebrates the release of its DVD with a fundraising party at 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 19) at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Sponge, the Howling Diablos, Luis Resto and special guests will perform. The event is sold out. For information on the organization, visit www.d-pan.com.

Web Site: www.d-pan.com

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