Allyson Townsend isn't deaf, and she doesn't have any family members that are hearing impaired. Yet she meticulously dedicates her time to signing out popular hits like Taylor Swift's "Back to December" in American Sign Language for her 15,350 viewers to enjoy on her YouTube channel, Ally ASL.
The 22-year-old graduated from Baylor University in 2010 after majoring in deaf education, but she first gained an interest in ASL as a child when her deaf friend wasn't able to understand her love of music.
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"She asked me, 'How do you know which words to sing at which point and how do you know how long to say the word?' and just asked me questions like that," she said.
So Townsend made her friend a music video, an ASL version of Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me."
"She loved it," she said. "She absolutely loved it. She asked me to do more."
Four years ago, she started posting other songs online. Since then, she has covered a vast array of music, from "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone to "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha.
Today, more than 15,000 people have watched her videos, and although her fans can't hear any music, they still respond to the posts. The comment board on her channel is full of thankful viewers, like xFallenXAngelx0811.
"Omg, thank you so much for putting this up," the comment reads. "I'm deaf, so it's great to be able to actually hear the music."
Another dedicated viewer, TheStrawberry67 wrote, "I love watching you sign because I am a deaf 13-year-old and I can understand some of my favorite songs by you signing. You make words very clear for me to understand. Thanks!"
"The way you move your body, whether it's a fast song or a slow song, they're really able to connect to that and experience that from your body and facial expression," said Townsend. "Signing songs is like painting pictures with your hands. It's very visual, you can see it, you're setting up a story board in the air."
Helping Others Learn
Townsend now is a second grade teacher in Mesquite, TX, and most of the children in her class are completely deaf.
"When I see a child that has been exposed to music who has never had that exposure before it makes me feel great," she said. "It makes me feel like I have been able to provide them with something they can have for the rest of their lives."