For three teenagers attending Galludet University, a school for deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, D.C., it wasn’t their disability that brought them together, but their love of rock ‘n’ roll. In 1971, Bob Hiltermann (drums), Ed Chevy (bass guitar), and Steve Longo (guitar) had dreams of playing on stage – and they weren’t about to let their deafness hold them back. The trio soon formed Beethoven’s Nightmare, the first all-deaf band in the world. With a show featuring screaming guitars, screeching vocals, and plenty of attitude, the only thing separating them from a “normal” band has been their use of sign language on stage.
Over nearly 40 years, like so many bands do, the group has broken up and gotten back together a few times, but they’re here to stay since the release of their 2006 debut album, Turn It Up Louder. In support of the album, the group has been making special appearances at conferences for deaf organizations, as well as playing gigs at night clubs across the country. (Watch a clip from a gig here.) They have also been featured in a documentary currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit, See What I’m Saying, which highlights the struggles and triumphs of deaf performing artists.