Signed Music Project

The Signed Music Project explores signed music as a form of performance art that arises from within the Deaf community and is distinct and evolved from both ASL poetry and from translated signed songs which initiated from spoken language. It may incorporate ASL literary poetic features such as lines, meter, rhythm and rhyme and also incorporates basic elements of music such as harmony, rhythm, melody, timbre, and texture, which is expressed as a visual-gestural artistic form.

Research Team:


Jody H. Cripps is an Assistant Professor of American Sign Language in the Department of Languages at Clemson University, Clemson, SC. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the University of Arizona with a focus on Deaf children’s reading processes in learning English as a second language with the use of American Sign Language as the first language. Currently, Dr. Cripps’ research interests are universal design, signed music, signed language pathology, ASL-English literacy, pedagogy, and second language and vocabulary acquisition. Dr. Cripps also gave several presentations on Signed Music along with Ely Rosenblum and Dr. Anita Small in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. He also is co-authoring articles and an encyclopedia entry on Signed Music. He is currently Vice President of The Gloss Institute, a non-profit organization that concentrates on promoting Deaf children’s literacy skills.


Ely Rosenblum is a Canadian ethnographic researcher of art, music and performance, as well as a filmmaker and sound recordist with experience combining anthropology and critical media practice. He trained in ethnographic filmmaking at the Centre for Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he co-founded ART/E/FACT, a publication and event series of art and anthropology. Ely is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Music at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Nicholas Cook, FBA, a doctoral fellow of Cape Breton University, and a 2014 visiting researcher at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. He has created films and produced recordings for the Smithsonian Institution, the MIT Media Lab, ethnomusicological researchers at the University of Cambridge, and most recently CBC Radio 1.


Anita Small M.Sc., Ed.D. is the founder of small LANGUAGE CONNECTIONS consulting and creating award-winning language, culture and communications content for organizations and educational institutions. Dr. Small was Co-Founder and past Co-Director of the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE in Toronto responsible for programming, exhibits, research and development. Dr. Small brings to fruition innovative content as demonstrated in her success as a grant writer. She has raised over 12 million dollars in project grants for new cultural programming, exhibits, literary and arts awards programs and productions. Dr. Small has spearheaded numerous award winning educational institutions, programs and products. Dr. Small’s work in establishing innovative educational and cultural programs has been profiled in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Canada AM and Breakfast TV. With a passion in language, culture, education and research, she has her Doctorate of Education in Sociolinguistics (1986) and Cultural Mediation Training and Staff Dispute Resolution Training (1992). She has researched, published and presented on cultural identity and the arts, creating empowering educational and cultural environments, literacy and effective bilingual pedagogy. Dr. Small taught bilingual-bicultural Deaf education at the Faculty of Education at York University for 12 years, has served as Associate Faculty at the University of Toronto (U of T), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and has recently taught at U of T Scarborough Campus. She has co-presented on this new inter-performative art, Signed Music and co-authored an encyclopedia article on Signed Music.


A renowned Deaf leader, author, advocate, mediator and education advisor, Joanne Cripps is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE, responsible for the operations, policies and fundraising of the Centre. She promotes Deaf arts, heritage and literature. Author of Quiet Journey: Understanding the Rights of Deaf Children, Joanne was residence counsellor and supervisor over 17 years at the Provincial School for Deaf students in Ontario and was an advisor on the Ministry Advisory Council for Special Education, reporting to the Minister of Education. She worked as the Advocate at the ministry level at the Office of Child and Family Services Advocacy. Joanne has initiated and co-produced award winning ASL literacy programs such as the and literature productions (children’s books, videos and DVD’s) and co-created the award winning TV series and website and the quadralingual heritage collections and virtual museum website.


Aimee Whyte, second generation Deaf, is a Ph.D. candidate in counseling and counselor education at University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development. She is proposing a dissertation study that will explore Deaf college students’ perceptions, experiences, and participation in music, musicking, and music therapy. She received her M.A. in mental health counseling from Gallaudet University and her B.S. in professional and technical communication from RIT/NTID. Aimee is the Director of Programs and Services with Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Victims (ASADV) and is an adjunct English instructor/tutor at NTID. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in New York State, an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS), and a Canadian Certified Counselor (CCC). Aimee has co-authored two journal articles and a book chapter relating to Deaf people and/or Deaf college students and counseling. Her professional interests: Deaf people, Deaf college students, Deaf-centered counseling, human development, identity, counselor education and supervision, and music and musicking.


Music Consultants:


Jason Cripps is an active musician, performer, and graduate of Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program (London, Ontario). Jason plays several instruments, however, his main instruments are guitar and vocals. With over twenty years of musical experience, he has gained a broad base of knowledge in the history, theory and production of music. Jason is also the son of two Deaf parents, which he feels gives him an “outsider’s” perspective to a hearing world, while sustaining access to this world at the same time. This point of view is often expressed in his music and in his performance.


Michael Friedmann, an ASL interpreter with more than 20 years’ experience, received his bachelor’s degree in musical performance from the University of Arizona. Currently a staff interpreter there, he also is a musician in his spare time. He can be found playing his jazz at the local scene in Tucson.


Christopher Flygare is a secondary mathematics teacher for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind and is currently employed at the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has also had over 15 years experience teaching American Sign Language (Levels 1, 2, 3) at the high school and college level. Although Deaf, Christopher has had several years experience of music performance, primarily with the percussion instruments, in the high school and college settings. Additionally, he composes music and is currently writing a symphony for full orchestra and choir.


Austin “Awti” Andrews is committed to supporting ASL professionals, hearing and Deaf, in unleashing their ASL power! Awti does this as a nationally-certified ASL interpreter (RID: CI and CT; NIC Master; BEI Master); as a national presenter and performer; and by producing high-quality YouTube videos for the ASL community. To see Awti’s entertaining and educational videos, complete with English captions, visit Awti is widely recognized as a storyteller of Deaf Ninja, is the only hearing person in his family (mother, father and brother are Deaf), and was born/raised in Rochester, NY, but currently resides in Austin, TX.




Janis Cripps is a Deaf artist with a BFA in Film and Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology. She has toured with Dangerous Signs, a Deaf performance arts troupe, for several years with whom she danced, performed ASL songs, and did comedy skits. Janis is a K-12 Technology teacher at Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind, teaching a wide-range of technology from keyboarding to graphic designs/photography to film and video. In her free time, Janis produces photography, photography arts, and signed music videos.


Pamela E. Witcher is an artist, museo-technician, translator and activist. Born in 1975 in Montreal to a family of Deaf parents and a Deaf brother, she had the chance to embrace the four languages of her roots: American Sign Language, Langue des signes québécoise, English and French. She attended a deaf school (MacKay Center) and mainstream high schools. She obtained her Degree in Collegial Studies from Dawson College, her BA in Social Work from McGill University and her DCS in Techniques de muséologie from Collège Montmorency. Her artistic works explore issues of d/Deaf experiences, relations of power between minorities and majorities and sub-consciences. She has portrayed her pieces in Rochester, Washington D.C., Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. She pursues her passion in her artist loft as an independent artist while continuing to work in collaboration with Groupe BWB, TraduSign, Cinéall Production, SPiLL PROpagation and DEAF CULTURE CENTRE.


Ian Sanborn is a Deaf performer who has performed with different theater companies including the National Theater of the Deaf for more than 10 years as well as attending a theater academy. He is currently a psychology student with a focus on counseling at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. While at college, he continues to do art work and performance with a variety of performing arts including signed music.


Rosa Lee Timm is a performance artist known mostly for her English-to-ASL translation music videos, her work as a solo performer in The Rosa Lee Show, and as a lead actor in ASL Films’s feature film Versa Effect. Since 1993, Rosa Lee has been involved with several stage productions, performance troupes, and has appeared in television, videos, DVDs, and CD-ROMs as an actress, sign model, and director. Currently, she is an ASL teacher, the managing editor of KISSFIST Magazine, and presenter and workshop leader. She is also a wife and a mother to two young children.

Born in Somalia, Hodan Youssouf has been Deaf since childhood. She immigrated to Canada in 1989 after a passage in France as a refugee with her brothers and sisters. Currently, Youssouf is active in the Deaf community in Montreal. She has been working as a teacher aide with Deaf students at Gadbois Elementary School since 2010. Besides being the teacher aide, she is collaborating with Cinéall, an organization that strives to find innovative communication solutions between Deaf and hearing communities. With an interest in theatre, she also took part in the ASL adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in Toronto. Youssouf is a socially engaged poet and actress and has been involved in a variety of projects over the years, both in the province of Quebec and abroad. On the side job, she is involved in conducting research on music in the Deaf community and doing the interpretation of Aphrodite in La Part du Diable by Bernard Adamus. Recently, Youssouf worked in the area of theater as the actress at La Traversée – a bilingual LSQ/French play by Voyageurs Immobiles Company and The Tempest at the Citadel Theater in Edmonton, and as an actress/interpreter at the illumiNations Bible translation project at Philadelphia. She also participated in several actors/actresses’ training such as The Black Drum (a signed musical theatre created by Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf) workshop at the Soulpepper Theater in Toronto and participated in a two-week intensive workshop under the direction of Inside Out Theatre and Deaf Spectrum for Deaf artists from Canada. She is continuing her passion as being an actress in the theater and film industries.

Jason “JB” Begue is a program director for the Deaf Studies Program at Towson University, Towson, Maryland. He is originally from Ohio. JB completed his undergraduate studies in Psychology and graduate studies in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. As an instructor, he strongly believes in building a safe place where students can maximize their signing performance through his commitment, creativity, and enthusiasm. For years, JB had the privilege of engaging and communicating with people of diverse backgrounds and learning needs. More recently, he has been fascinated by the topic of signed music and he made some signed music videos.