Actress to sign the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII


While many viewers listen to Renee Fleming and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, not everyone will be able to hear it. Which is why each year the National Association of the Deaf and PepsiCo select someone to perform the anthem in American Sign Language. This year that honor goes to actress Amber Zion.

Amber recorded the national anthem with us in advance of her upcoming performance at one of the most-watched events of the year. We break down the signs to the lyrics with the idea that anyone can learn how to sign this song and enjoy this great tradition.

While Amber performs Sunday night, one player in particular will likely be paying attention from the sidelines. Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf player to be part of an NFL offense.

See the video below for Amber's rendition:

Have you noticed that each time an artist sings the national anthem, certain notes are held out longer or shorter, and certain phrases are emphasized? On Sunday, Amber will add those nuances through specific emphasis or reduction in the movements of her hands, arms, face and body. See below for our Q&A and more interesting facts from the NAD:

AOL: How is inflection denoted in sign language? Each time an artist sings the national anthem, certain notes are held out longer or shorter, and certain phrases are emphasized. How do you add these nuances and emotions to signing?

NAD: Inflection and emotion is conveyed in American Sign Language through specific emphasis or reduction in the movements of the hand, arms, face and body as well as with facial expressions. With a song like the national anthem, the length of each note can be varied depending on the duration and tone of the sign used. Like vocal singers, each ASL artist has his or her own style and way of showing the meaning and concept of the song in ASL.

AOL: What's your favorite type of music or spoken word to sign?

Amber: Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," which I did a music video of some time ago. Available on YouTube. I also like "Believe in Dream."

AOL: What is the biggest challenge when signing?

NAD: It is one thing to be performing a song in American Sign Language as a single artist. It is another thing to perform the song in ASL while integrating a singer's version with the ASL rendition. This can pose a challenge because ASL has its own structure and grammar. Not only does the signer determine on how he or she wants to render the song in ASL, but the signer must also take into account the vocal singer's interpretation of the song.

AOL: Do you rehearse with a singer before signing a song?

NAD: Yes, whenever possible we ensure that the signer rehearses beforehand with the singer. As is true in any form of show business, anything can change quickly so we do all we can to go with the flow and be prepared. You can see some of Amber's prep for her Super Bowl performance in a video posted at our site.

AOL: Aside from the Super Bowl, is there another event you'd like to see incorporate sign language?

NAD: The National Association of the Deaf advocates for American Sign Language rendition of the national anthem at all sporting events. We would like to see it at the World Series, the NHL Stanley Cup finals, the NBA and WNBA basketball finals, and March Madness among others. We believe that these ASL renditions should be performed by deaf performers who are fluent in ASL.

AOL: It seems that the National Anthem is a common song to sign, but are there others that most sign interpreters know?

NAD: A deaf artist such as Amber Zion is a performer rather than a sign language interpreter (the terminology used is important for the sake of clarity). Artists like Amber are well versed in rendering many kinds of music through American Sign Language.

AOL: Do you have a pick for the Super Bowl?

NAD: Both football teams are excellent contenders for the Super Bowl title, but we want to share our excitement about a deaf football player who will be in the Super Bowl this year – Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks. By all accounts, he is the first deaf player to ever be in the Super Bowl. We wish him well and hope to see more deaf and hard of hearing football players in the NFL and in other major sports. We also want to tell everyone that they can watch Amber's entire performance of the National Anthem online at or through your tablet (such as an iPad) with the FOX Sports GO app.