ASL Version of 'Let It Go' Featuring RIT/NTID Alumni Released

Story Highlights: 
  • Two graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf whose prior performances have been viewed by millions now are featured in an ASL version of the song "Let It Go" from the popular Disney movie "Frozen."
  • Amber Zion, ’04, an actress who signed the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl, and Jason Listman, ’07 and ’09, an assistant professor who teaches American Sign Language to interpreting students at NTID, star in the video, which was directed by Jules Dameron.
  • The video, which RIT/NTID helped sponsor, involves other graduates of the university, including Jess Thurber, ’06, assistant producer; Ruan du Plessis, ’11, director of photography; and Erik Call, ’06, who worked behind the scenes.
  • View the video at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=g1HVoEW5s50

A music video of the popular “Let It Go” song, from the Disney movie Frozen, performed in American Sign Language with an all-deaf cast and crew has generated more than 43,000 views since its release less than 24 hours ago.

It stars two graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf whose prior performances have been viewed by millions.

Amber Zion, ’04, an actress who signed the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl, and Jason Listman, ’07 and ’09, an assistant professor who teaches American Sign Language to interpreting students at NTID, star in the video, which was directed by Jules Dameron.

“When I saw it for the first time, I was speechless and my jaw dropped the whole time,” Zion said. “It was beyond my expectations.”

The video, which RIT/NTID helped sponsor, involves other graduates of the university, including Jess Thurber, ’06, assistant producer; Ruan du Plessis, ’11, director of photography; and Erik Call, ’06, who worked behind the scenes.

The video is on the YouTube page of the Deaf Professional Arts Network, or D-PAN. The network was created by Sean Forbes, a 2008 RIT/NTID Applied Arts and Sciences graduate who performs in live shows and an array of music videos.

 “We are proud of the role a number of our talented alumni are playing in the rise in popularity of music videos in sign language,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “And we are pleased to support this video as a way to ensure that all audiences—deaf and hearing—get to enjoy the richness and beauty of signed expression.”

Disney authorized use of the song for the video, which was filmed over three days in September in Paso Robles, Calif., a community two hours north of Los Angeles.

“It was a phenomenal experience to work with a deaf crew, especially with Amber and Jules,” Listman said. “I think the song is perfect because it represents the value of social justice, the concept that everyone deserves equal opportunities in this society and can challenge the status quo. We should embrace ourselves and be true to ourselves. Let it go! This applies to a lot of deaf people with multiple identities, too.”

“Because the song has metaphors, it is nice to open your mind and translate that into ASL,” said Zion. “I love the challenges, to put all of my hard work into it.”

She said Disney released dozens of versions of “Let It Go” in various languages. “They haven’t done one in ASL. I really hope they would add this music video into their list.”

Forbes said he is happy to add the “Let It Go” video to his website. “I’ve always admired Jason and Amber’s work, shown their videos on D-PAN and am glad to see them working together on this project.”

The video is the latest of a series of music videos performed in sign language and posted on YouTube. The technology didn’t exist when Listman was growing up. He discovered music when he was 13, and has since posted five ASL music videos, generating more than 1 million views cumulatively. He says he’s happy there is an outlet that allows him to share his struggles and joys through translating songs into ASL, show others that songs can be translated in sign language and show hearing people that deaf people should be in the spotlight when it comes to signing songs in ASL.

“I hope this music video, with a deaf cast and crew, will open everyone’s mind to see that we can make this happen,” Zion said. “I also hope that this kind of exposure will help all other deaf performers/crews to get recognized.”

 “It makes me feel good,” Listman said. “I’m excited to know I inspire a lot of people out there, especially in the deaf community.”

View the video at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=g1HVoEW5s50

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