University of Rochester

EVENT: American Sign Language Meets American Idol at University of Rochester

April 7, 2011

In a clever play on American Idol, University of Rochester undergraduates and high school students from the Greece Central School District will show 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 takes 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).

Sponsored by undergraduate student group, American Sign Language Club, Sign Idol gives 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 begins, members of the ASL Club will spend the afternoon with high school students from Greece Olympia and Greece Arcadia. In small groups, the high school students will visit an introductory American Sign Language class and then meet with professors and current undergraduates. The activities are 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.