Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Appropriate? Use of sign language to augment music

What do you think of the use of sign language for aesthetic purposes? Have you had interactions with the deaf community about this? I would like to use ASL on one selection only. I often use dance or movement, and art to enhance the meaning of the music, but understand the sensitivity with sign language.
I welcome your thoughts, feelings, and reflections.
Katherine Mitchell
on April 17, 2014 12:25pm
I'm a choral director whose adult  daughter is a small step away from becoming a licensed interpreter.  I've learned a great deal from her progess toward certification.  One of the big lessons is that you need to be absolutely sure that the signs you're using are absolutely correct.  If you're having an entire choir sign, my advice is to have a professional teach you or the choir the best way to convey the song, and and come in several times to critique the ensemble.    A colleague told me about an earnest music teacher who made up (not that you're proposing this) signs for a first-grade presentation attended by Deaf grandparents.  Her logical but non-standard hand motions unintentionally conveyed something extremely improper.  Reportedly, the grandparents spent the song attempting not to laugh out loud!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 18, 2014 3:15am
I use it every year during the holidays on a beautiful version of Silent Night.  My students love it, and so do the audiences who see it.  I had a professional interpreter teach us and check our work.  It's a great way to teach rhythm using a lyrical approach and is great for kinesthetic learners.
I originally performed songs with sign language with John Jacobson when I was in high school when he visited for a workshop.  I'll never forget that beautiful performance experience on the song "He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother".  
Best of luck!
Dale Duncan
How to teach Sight Singing to Middle School Students-  Full Bundle/Year Long Lesson plans 10-15 minutes per day now available:
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.