Last week, Radford University’s American Sign Language Club (ASL) hosted “Deaf Jam,” a night of musical performances that were also signed so that the hearing impaired could also enjoy the music. Music is an emotional experience and isn’t just for the hearing world. The formerly inactive ASL Club put together an amazing performance that not only had the audience laughing and cheering, but also helped raise awareness of RU’s deaf community.
The ASL Club was inactive for many years until last spring when a few passionate students began to bring it back to life. With the help of faculty advisor Ellen Austin, the club has managed to grow its membership from around 15 people to over 100 members. The club aims to help people who want to learn how to sign and/or interact with individuals in the program and community who have a hearing impairment. Their teamwork and passion for the club was obvious by the work they put into the show.
The show began with a performance of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song meant to symbolize the theme for the rest of the show: everyone is born how they are and there’s nothing wrong with that. People should embrace their individuality instead of trying to hide from it. Although this performance got off to a rocky start, when the music began to skip and the performers took an impromptu break, the small flaw was quickly forgotten and the rest of the show was smooth sailing.
What surprised me most about the show was that you didn’t have to be fluent in ASL to understand what the performers were trying to say. I don’t know any ASL, but it was still inspiring for me to watch the faces of performers as they danced and signed the messages the songs conveyed.
Kayla Price, president of the ASL Club, clearly stood out from the crowd in her passion for the club. She participated in five different songs and the introduction to the show. Her outfit changed in every song but her smile remained the same. When someone’s heart is in something it’s shown on their face, and her expressions were an obvious telltale of how proud she was of the club.
The show featured all different genres from country to top 40, the show had something for everyone. My favorites were: The Jackson Five’s “A-B-C Easy As 1-2-3,” “Seasons of Love,” from RENT the musical, and “Sing,” the Glee version of My Chemical Romance’s popular song.
“Sing,” was an especially fantastic performance because the ASL Club collaborated with members of the RU Dance department. The dancers further communicated the idea that emotion can be conveyed in all kinds of ways. It doesn’t necessarily take hearing someone’s message to understand or feel their emotions. Sometimes things are better communicated through movements, expressions, signs and body language.
The show kept the audience’s attention with many different tactics, such as passing a blow-up globe around the audience during John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” and teaching the audience the signs for “A-B-C Easy As 1-2-3.” Each performance was well thought-out and organized.
The club has also put on bowling events, ice cream socials, bonfires, silent lunches and cookouts in the past. Many members of the club are deaf education majors, an underrepresented major at RU.
This club’s recent climb goes to show that with hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything you’re passionate about. The message I got from attending “Deaf Jam” was that as long as you’re able to communicate your passion to others, great collaborations are possible, and there are many other ways to communicate besides speech.