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CSU student offers musical experience for deaf community

The deaf community is often overlooked when it comes to experiencing music.

Zachary Bush is trying to change that.

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Drew Miller, a senior double majoring in music performance and electrical engineering, plays the bass during the deaf history concert on Saturday night at the United Methodist Church.
Drew Miller, a senior double majoring in music performance and electrical engineering, plays the bass during the deaf history concert on Saturday night at the First United Methodist Church.

A senior at Colorado State University, Bush is working on completing three degrees in music education, music performance and music composition. For his thesis, he created a concert that focused on bringing music to those who do not have the auditory ability to experience it.

“When I was a kid, I took an American sign language class,” Bush said. “It taught things like the Bible and different signs for very basic things, but there weren’t any classes after that. When I got to college, I had this idea of ‘how could you tell a story through music, but convey it to the audience through another medium besides print?’ And then I thought, ‘sign language.’”

Zachary performed his piece Saturday night at First United Methodist Church at 1005 Stover St. It featured an orchestra, sign language interpreters and visual accompaniment on a projector.

There were also balloons passed out at the beginning of the concert to allow people to feel the vibrational aspects of the music, adding another element for people to better experience the sounds of the music.

There were three parts to the concert that focused on different aspects of the deaf community from marginalization, to the invention of the cochlear implant and the controversy that surrounds it, to the community that surrounds those who are deaf.

Julia Castellanos, a second year grad student in music therapy, plays the violin during the deaf history concert at the United Methodist Church on Saturday night. A slideshow of inspiring images played to accompany the music.
Julia Castellanos, a second year grad student in music therapy, plays the violin during the deaf history concert at the First United Methodist Church on Saturday night. A slideshow of inspiring images played to accompany the music.

Deanne Seitz, an instructor of American sign language at CSU, worked with Bush to bring the signing part of the piece to life. Accompanied by four of her students, Seitz signed throughout the piece, telling a story of the connection between music and being deaf.

“I had a speech impediment as a child and I was very disgruntled for being singled out for speech therapy,” Seitz said. “My mother has a teacher’s heart and encouraged me and provided opportunities for me to interact with deaf folks and take sign language. So I took American Sign Language and just blossomed.”

The audience ranged from young to elderly with good representation from CSU students. Two such students were sophomores Ashley Hall and Haley Henderson, who are majoring in political science and psychology, respectively.

Hull said her personal experience with sign language and her connection to Seitz is what made her want to attend the performance.

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“We have a friend who’s in Deanne Seitz’s class and we took four years of sign language in high school, so we were very interested in coming,” she said.

The piece captured a part of music that is not often thought of. It took those who could hear on a historical journey about those who are deaf and their struggles with this different aspect of life. It also created a concert that could be enjoyed by those who are deaf.

“My favorite part was during the middle piece where they used the clarinet mixed with computerized sounds to create what it would sound like for someone who had a cochlear,” Henderson said. “It gives those of us who can hear a bit of insight.”

Bush worked many hours to create a piece that would educate while being enjoyable for the whole audience.

“Music is reflective of the human experience, and it’s an experience that should be available to all,” he said. “I wanted to make something that was inclusive to everyone.”

Collegian A&E Music Beat Writer Royce Hoffner can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @RoyceHoffner.

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