• Victoria J. Polsoni

A Grateful Christmas Concert for the Deaf with Marshall Dane

Updated: May 10, 2020

Musician Marshall Dane blessed a crowd once again with his sound and thought-provoking storytelling through a Christmas concert he volunteered to perform for a very special crowd—The members, families and friends of The Bob Rumball Centre of Excellence for the Deaf in Toronto.

Marshall, a Canadian Country Musician and a third year ASL (American Sign Language) student, has begun uniquely integrating his passion for Sign Language into his music with the aid of skilled interpreter Vera Goudie (CODA).

Goudie, a superstar in her own field, seamlessly signs the words and messages in Marshall's music as well as all the stories he tells in between, emoting his emotions and feelings, reflecting and conveying his thoughts and intent to the Deaf audience.

Even when Marshall is not performing for a Deaf audience, he makes it a mission to talk about his experiences working with the community and goes the extra mile to teach and demonstrate how to say some words in sign language.

"2019 has been merely a preview of how much I enjoy sharing my new found passion for sign language and its three-dimensional way of communicating, the inspiring gratitude and joy that radiates from within the Deaf community, and the kind of love and happiness it gifts every new person that witnesses this union of Deaf and hearing through music and sign," Marshall explains.

Eyes lit up as the capacity crowd sang and signed along—their light filled the room and everyone bonded through this wonderful performance, both hearing and Deaf folk alike.

President of the foundation, Derek Rumball (son of the founder Robert “Bob” Lesley Rumball) was delighted when Marshall approached him with his idea of putting on a Christmas concert at their Bayview location. Here are some thoughts he wanted to share with us:

Prior to performing, Marshall arrived early to take the time to get to know some of the members of The Bob Rumball Foundation more personally by asking a few questions and documenting their stories for a future project in the works.

Situated in a beautiful bright room overlooking the nearby forest, we sat down to converse with different folks while Vera interpreted all the questions and answers. We immediately noticed that every person that entered the room had one main quality in common—gratitude.

They were grateful for the supportive community they had become a part of.

One gentleman, Fred, had a particularly interesting story:

Fred wasn’t born Deaf—in fact, he explained to us that it happened all of a sudden, literally over night at the age of 25. He woke up one day and his hearing was completely gone due to an auto-immune sickness.

He was in complete shock, and explained that throughout the immediate time following, he had no desire to meet with any friends or family for almost 2 years. He lost his job, his social network, his communication with his family… until he got to the point where he refused to continue to live this way and took it upon himself to overcome this challenge.

That’s when he started an aggressive personal journey to learn American Sign Language and discovered the Bob Rumball Centre. To help sharpen and fast-track his signing skills, he immediately offered his time as a volunteer which not only lead to him finding a community that understood him, but also a job.

"Sign language is a beautiful thing. When you hear people—you hear their ups and downs and intonations but in sign language, you actually see the emotions being expressed physically. You see everything in the facial expressions, in body language. It's a three-dimensions language. Literally, it's not just a flat sound wave that you see on a screen or something—it's completely three-dimensional."

James lost his hearing at the age of three and grew up in an oral Deaf community. He didn't learn sign language until he was thirteen. Common to all people, his life took him through different hardships including divorce, and as he’ll tell you—he keeps looking forward.

"I have courage and I think I’m a strong person. I’ve had my share of hardships in my life, but I just try and try again."

Tisring, pictured below with her enthusiastic and infectious smile, was born in Nepal, and grew up communicating using a Nepalese Sign Language. Since she immigrated to Canada with her brother in 2008, she has been actively learning ASL and numerous other skills at The Bob Rumball Foundation as she works towards getting her Canadian citizenship.

She says: “ASL is much more comprehensive. The Bob Rumball community even taught me how to use public transit, so that once I learned those skills, I was able to get around on my own and explore. Now I can enjoy my time in Toronto with my brother, capturing photos of our adventures and sharing them my two daughters one of which lives in Canada and the other back in Nepal, both Hearing, and both able to communicate in Sign Language enough to converse.”

Caesar and Filipo—father and son.

Filipo is Deaf, yet with the help of his cochlear implant, can also orally converse and hear some. However, without it, he hears nothing.

“When I call someone without FaceTime, it is still hard to understand. I prefer to see the mouth so I can read lips, so I can understand fully.”

Caesar, his father, has been Deaf since birth. He was born to hearing parents who didn’t learn to sign, making communication very difficult and frustrating. Because of that, even with Filipo's ability to communicate in spoken English with his one hearing brother, the whole family makes an effort to always speak in sign language to ensure good and equal communication in the household.

Caesar, aside from campaigning to provide effective, practical feedback to the education system and it’s functionality for the Deaf and hard of hearing, also encourages his son to follow his artistic passion for photography. He teaches him the rules of composition (first on his iPhone camera) before upgrading to the next level.

A newly gifted tripod should aid in him trying his hand at a few unexplored tricks!

Lochram, pictured below, was born Deaf and is the only person in his family who speaks sign language. It is a challenge for him to communicate with his family members, and he finds it very liberating to be a part of a community of people he can sign with.

He told us that The Bob Rumball Foundation is his happy place and he particularly loved being in the presence of the late Reverend Bob Rumball himself.

"He was very friendly and sociable. I liked to hear him tell his stories", says Lochram, with a fond smile.

Lisa is not completely deaf, but prefers to use ASL and interpreters to prevent misunderstanding anything that’s being communicated. Her parents found out she was hard of hearing when she was only two years old. Her hearing was affected as a result of her mother being sick with red measles during her pregnancy when her.

"When I am around people who use sign language, I feel I can express my feelings and thoughts a lot better. When I’m with people who don’t sign, especially family situations where the communication, thoughts and stories are much more personal—I feel like I’m getting the superficial version of every conversation."

Lisa advocates for the Deaf community by providing assistance in any way she can. She is also an ASL interpreter and has worked on several videos for the Markham Fire Dept, using Sign Language to explain fire safety tips.

John, the joyous man pictured below, was born hearing, but at the age of four lost it when he took ill from a bout of the whooping cough. These days he uses hearing aids to pump up the volume.

That’s when the Doctors made their diagnosis: Hard Of Hearing. When asked, he said picking up Sign Language was easy for him.

These days, he is the proud father of two sons and in April 2020, him and his wife, also Deaf, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

"I’m a happy guy!" says John.

Every person we had the pleasure of speaking to represented a unique wealth of knowledge and experience—none of their stories were the same. Each had a different version of what would be considered Deaf. From 100% hearing loss, to some retention. Some can speak without hearing; read lips, hear with aids, only sign without any oral use, and some speak different types of sign language—every persons journey, unique.

Sounds familiar? Aren't we all the same, in our own unique ways?

Although deafness, legally, is sometimes referred to as a 'disability', the Deaf people we met didn't see it that way. They only spoke of their gratitude for the strength of the community, proving that the way they are often seen is misperceived.

They had no challenges they couldn't face, or were afraid to meet. It almost felt like we were the ones missing something—which reminded us to be more grateful, ourselves. We take so much for granted, and they walk with a heart of gratitude on their sleeve.

The Bob Rumball Foundation has successfully created a caring, supportive and inclusive community for so many Deaf people. It is my wish that more people could enthusiastically and compassionately talk about this wonderful place and its community, gain a deeper understanding of Deaf culture and take the time to get to know the beautiful souls within it.

Marshall and I look forward to working closely with them in order to continue to show you how they're some of the most inspiring, strong and grateful people you will ever meet.

Consider donating to The Bob Rumball Centre of Excellence for the Deaf to continue supporting these programs.

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Post written by: Victoria Polsoni & Marshall Dane

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