The students of my advanced choir were thrilled to welcome Rusty Nawrocki to our Zoom rehearsal on Tuesday night!
Rusty is a high school teacher, a taekwondo Olympian, a resident of Seattle, a husband and father, a Christian, a science-lover, a coffee-drinker, and a Harry Potter enthusiast. He is also Deaf.
Rusty shared with our choir about his life experiences as a Deaf person, the richness that is Deaf Culture, and unique characteristics of American Sign Language.
With open friendliness, he fielded a slew of student questions running the gamut from “What do you think is the tone of ASL?” to “What has been your biggest struggle that you have overcome or are working to overcome?” to “What is your Hogwarts House?”
Our choir is working on a special performance collaboration with Rusty for our Virtual Spring Concert that will premiere on May 2nd.
Rusty created an ASL interpretation of the text of one of our songs. In our virtual choir video, we will feature Rusty on screen performing the text in ASL as the students sing in English. The students are also learning to perform some segments of the song in ASL as well, according to the signs Rusty provided for us.
Choral ensembles such as mine typically perform repertoire from a variety of languages, historical and cultural contexts, and styles. One of the many benefits of doing so is that it expands the singers’ world, allowing them to encounter and explore the life and experiences of people other than themselves. We celebrate what makes each language, culture, and person unique… and we grow in our understanding of the humanity we all share.
We are grateful to Rusty for sharing his language and culture with us. Because of him, our worlds are a little wider, our lives a little brighter.
The text of the song we will perform with Rusty is very timely. It urges hope, perseverance, and unity, even in the midst of difficult times. “We lift our candles in the darkness,” the song begins, “We stand together in the night… We are the bearers of the light.”
Thank you, Rusty, for sharing your light.
A special shout-out also goes to my brother-in-law (and Rusty’s friend) Jacob Mendoza. Thank you, Jacob, for serving as interpreter for Rusty’s visit with my choir! You facilitated our conversation with great expertise, and we also appreciated you taking a few moments to step outside of your interpreter role to share a few insights about your life as a C.O.D.A. (child of deaf adults) and about the skills and understanding required to serve effectively as a professional interpreter.