American Sign Language Meets American Idol

Univ. Communications – In a clever play on American Idol, University of Rochester undergraduates and high school students from the Greece Central School District showed off their knowledge of American Sign Language during Sign Idol, a competition in which students interpret the lyrics to songs using sign language. The event took place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, in room 101 of the Robert B. Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics (located on the River Campus).

Watch the Sign Idol video!

Sponsored by undergraduate student group, American Sign Language Club, Sign Idol gave students a chance to practice English to ASL interpretation in an innovative, fun way. In the past, students have interpreted pop hits like Aretha Franklin’s classic Respect to poetic songs like Jeff Buckley’s Halleluiah.

“We’ve had students select a broad variety of songs to interpret,” says Justin Gumina ’12, ASL Club president. “And, after they perform, a panel of judges provides critiques on how they can improve their interpretations.”

Before the event began, members of the ASL Club spent the afternoon with high school students from Greece Olympia and Greece Arcadia. In small groups, the high school students visited an introductory American Sign Language class and then met with professors and current undergraduates. The activities were part of a larger partnership with the school district; each week Rochester students spend an hour at the schools doing a “silent signing” session.

The American Sign Language Club was formed to promote cultural awareness of the deaf community on campus and in the city of Rochester. The group holds “silent coffees” at the campus Starbucks twice a week, where students can practice finger spelling and increase their vocabulary. They have hosted deaf comedians and storytellers on campus and hold a parent-student event during Meliora Weekend.

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