Making music accessible

Local ASL show choir raising money to perform at Disneyland

Imagine attending a concert or performance as a person who is hearing impaired.

Perhaps you may get the general idea of the song by reading lips and feeling the vibrations of the music, but it’s definitely not the full experience a hearing person will have.

That challenge is the inspiration behind Music in Motion, a community group that uses American Sign Language and dance to provide a more accessible performance for a variety of audiences.

The group includes students from Washougal and Skyview high schools, as well as Clark and Mt. Hood community colleges. They range in age from 16 to 19 years old, and none are hearing impaired.

This Thanksgiving, they’ll be taking their show on the road, so to speak, and performing at Disneyland. They are the first ASL choir to be selected for this honor.

“It feels very humbling,” said Tami Grant, director and Camas resident. “My oldest daughter is deaf and will be meeting us down there. She is our biggest fan and to be able to bring the magic of Disney music to a whole new audience with her rooting us on is pretty exciting.”

The choir was formed a year ago.

“It’s important because in a time when we as a nation are dividing ourselves, we need groups that teach understanding and tolerance,” Grant said. “Not knowing about other cultures and languages only breeds distrust and misunderstandings. These kids are trying to show that learning is everyone’s responsibility.”

During the trip, the students will entertain Disney guests with a personalized ASL dance performance. This requires them to develop characters, camaraderie and fine-tune their performance skills, according to Grant. They will also participate in workshops under the direction of a professional Disney clinician and other industry professionals.

Each of the 17 students must pay $800 to attend. They have held various fundraisers since being selected earlier this year, and are hosting their last one on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 54-40 Brewing in Washougal. There will be a barbecue style dinner, a silent auction and a performance by the Music in Motion team.

“I am pretty pumped that we were chosen to perform in Disneyland,” said Brady Stotts, a WHS senior. “I hope to learn leadership and to increase my self-confidence.”

Before sending in their audition video last winter, Grant and Kyla Ritchey, assistant director, worked with the performers on their ASL and choreography, fine tuning the details.

“These kids are not dancers,” Grant said. “They are football players, basketball players, wrestlers and softball players. They worked hard to combine ASL with music and dance.”

She continued, “I hope that the kids will not only increase their understanding of ASL but also increase their skills working with others as a team.”

In addition to Grant and Ritchey, the leadership team includes Misty Young and Kellie Stevens.

“As one of the group leaders and a mom of one of the members, I am proud of each of them for the commitment and the time they have put into learning each song along with the choreography,” Young said. “I am hoping that each one of our performers take their talent to the next level. They are all amazing kids.’

Olivia Kelly, WHS junior, is excited to share this unique choir with Disney guests.

“It’s really incredible able to be a part of something so special and to be able to share it with the world,” she said.