Watch: Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert speaks at TEDxBuffalo about being a deaf DJ

Geoff 'DeafGeoff' Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012

Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012 about being a deaf DJ and the importance of listening over hearing.

I was humbled and honored to be invited to speak at TEDxBuffalo, my first TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event, about being a deaf DJ and the challenges I’ve faced in my life growing up mostly deaf. The event was held Tuesday, October 9, at Canisius College in Buffalo to an invite-only crowd and was also live-streamed online and recorded for future events.

In a speech titled “Listening Is More Important Than Hearing,” I shared how I was born with a profound binaural hearing loss and learned how to communicate through years of speech therapy. I demonstrated some of the challenges that come from lipreading, such as how “V” and “F” look identical but the sound is different by how much air comes out of your mouth and whether your voice box vibrates when saying it. I then talked about falling in love with music, and its transformative power that led me to pursuing a career in radio — and never once letting my “disability” stand in the way. I learned to appreciate music by listening to it, not just hearing it, and worked hard at radio stations in high school and college before landing a job at Clear Channel’s HOT 107.9 in Syracuse as a morning show producer and sidekick known as “DeafGeoff.” I worked with “Marty & Shannon in the Morning” for six years as possibly the only mostly deaf on-air personality in the country and our show was rated No. 1 in its target 18-34 demographic.

I’m now a producer/entertainment reporter at syracuse.com, the online affiliate of The Post-Standard newspaper but the challenges I face today are the same. At a radio station disc jockey (or as a club DJ), you have to listen to what your audience wants and respond to it. Social media users and website readers will often comment and/or share stories, and it’s the same thing — listening to the audience, responding to them, and continuing to inform and/or entertain.

I’m also still a DJ for parties, dances, weddings, events, etc. and I’m constantly listening to music and studying it, watching audiences to see how they react to songs. It’s amazing how hearing a favorite tune can change a person’s mood — or force them to start moonwalking (or shuffling or Gangnam-Styling or whatever) because the music is that infectious.

You can watch video of me speaking at TEDxBuffalo here, but please check out the other speakers as well. All had great, unique thoughts to bring to the event and I was happy to be a part of it.

Thank you to all who watched and tweeted me their thoughts afterwards, and thank you to Kevin Purdy for inviting me to speak at TEDxBuffalo. If anyone has any follow-up questions or would like to know more, please feel free to email me.

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Remembering 9/11: Am I the only person who read what happened first, before watching?

On September 11, 2001, I was 17 years old and working in my high school radio station. I was the general manager of WHAB, a 10-watt station heard in a mile-radius on 89.1 FM in Acton, Massachusetts. That morning, I was working in the station during one of my free periods, gathering news for us to include in our broadcasts throughout the day. We had a continuous paper feed from the Associated Press that came out on a dot matrix printer, an old model that printed paper with holes on both sides, and all the pages were attached with perforations.

At 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower, I was alone in the station with no television or Internet. The only computer in the studio was used primarily for audio editing. Sponsorship identifications were printed on index cards, and daily news reports were either hand-written or literally cut-and-pasted from the AP news feed.

Around 8:50 a.m. a one-sentence “breaking news” blurb said a plane had collided with one of the twin towers in New York City, believed to be an accident — no mention of terrorists, victims or anything that would indicate what would come next. It wasn’t a local news story (Acton is a suburb of Boston, about 25 miles west) but I thought it was at least significant enough to include in the morning’s first newscasts. (At the time, the student-run station was only on the air from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) So I cut. And pasted. I’m not even sure if I had chosen it to be the lead story.

Someone then walked by and waved at me, indicating that I should follow them to the A/V room. We joined a small huddle of people staring at a TV showing a live news feed of the World Trade Center. It was now 9:03 a.m. and we all witnessed, live on television, United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower. Everyone reacted with horror and disbelief — two planes was clearly not an accident. Many began panicking, worrying if they knew anyone working in the towers at the time.

The rest of the school day was a blur as teachers played the role of counselors instead of sticking to lesson plans. As the facts developed, and two more hijacked planes crashed — Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA and Flight 77 into the Pentagon — September 11th quickly became a day we would never forget. My peers lost whatever innocence they had left as we all realized that the world is a dangerous place and no one is ever truly safe.

While the previous generation recalls exactly where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot, 9/11 became our shared moment in grief and we will always remember where we were and what we were doing that day.

I was alone in a radio station with a stack of printer paper. Was I the only person who read what happened first, before watching?

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I pause to remember the many lives we lost that day and the countless volunteers and respondents who did everything possible to help. We will never forget.

Radio Daze #3: Camping in the Mall

I spent May 29th – June 1st of 2009 living in the Carousel Center.  That’s right, I set up an RV/tent campsite and literally lived in the mall for 76 hours.  No shower.  Lots of unhealthy food.  LOTS OF FUN.  And the best part was, I did it to raise over $5,000 for the AIDS Walk/Run in Central New York.

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Radio Daze #1: Going to jail for Paris Hilton.

The following is a recap of the fun live-blogging experience I had when I went to “jail” to “show support” when Paris Hilton went to jail in 2007.  Radio station listeners were invited to watch me 24/7 on our live webcam and I never left jail (which was actually my office with bars made out of duct tape) in the three days I stayed there (and Paris did).  She later went back to serve more time, but I wasn’t interested in redoing the ridiculousness – I learned that there’s nothing more horrible than NOT having basic freedoms.  So don’t commit crimes, kids.
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Here’s to a new adventure.

After more than 6 years working at HOT 107.9 and Clear Channel Syracuse, it is with bittersweet emotion that I announce I’m leaving to start a new adventure. 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experiences as DeafGeoff, the goofy hard-of-hearing sidekick and morning show producer on “Marty & Shannon in the Morning” and also as Geoff Herbert, the Twitter-happy web producer geek for Clear Channel Syracuse.  It’s crazy to think that I have now spent one-quarter of my life here, but  I’ve loved it, I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with, and I’ve loved the challenges I’ve had at my job.  (Seriously, how many deaf people do you know that work in radio?)  I’ve also loved all the amazing listeners and dedicated fans that I’ve come to know through the show and my many crazy stunts (Indiana Jones & The Deaf Kid Of Doom, Win A Date With DeafGeoff, Deaf The Halls, to name a few).  It’s been connecting with the audience that’s been truly been my favorite part of the experience.

Now it’s time for a new adventure.  With a new audience.  I will soon be starting a position at Syracuse.com as a Web Producer where I hope you will continue to follow me.  I might not end up in a ridiculous costume as often there, but I do still want to connect with you.  I’ll also now be updating this blog (deafgeoff.wordpress.com) five days a week as well as frequently updating my new site www.deafgeoff.com, and you can also continue to follow me on Twitter at @deafgeoff.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding new content to this website (my music, roller derby, and more) as well as cataloging some great memories from my radio experiences.  Thank you all for your support and I hope to see you all in my next adventure.  Until then – “Turn it up, and go Deaf!”