ASL ‘hand singer’ YouTube sensation, Stephen Torrence, heads to Poland for signing concert

Stephen Torrence

Austinite and wunderkind (entrepreneur, YouTube star, computer museum curator, hand singer) Stephen Torrence heads to Poland May 16th to appear in a week-long signing concert series underscoring and celebrating the release of a new Polish sign language education platform developed by Migaj.eu.

Torrence experimented with American Sign Language (ASL) hand singing performances during his college career, under his YouTube moniker CaptainValor. As an undergrad at Texas Tech University in Lubbock he minored in American Sign Language, feeling he already had enough French, Spanish, etc. under his belt (he doubled majored in Philosophy and Physics graduating in 2010, magna cum laude… *cough*).

It all began when his final project for ASL1 in 2007 required he interpret a song, so he chose Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton, from the game Portal. He rose to fame in 2010 with his latest ASL rendition of Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA. He was looking for a new song, and the tune (released on YouTube by her label as a teaser) felt catchy and open to some fun interpretation, so he chose it. Because Cyrus’ official video hadn’t dropped yet, folks looking for more info about the song stumbled upon his lively rendition and a hit was born!

Although many have done ASL song interpretations, he suspects his gained more popularity as he utilized novel concepts like “three-point lighting” and engaging emotive gestures. It’s the song’s popularity coupled with his expertise in ASL signing that drew the Polish software developer Migaj’s attention. So he agreed to venture out of retirement to perform.

But that’s not the least of Stephen’s talents. In March of this year during SXSW Interactive, Stephen spearheaded a group of his collaborators from Austin’s Museum of Computer Culture (where he serves as VP of Design) to take part in the annual and much-beloved EFF/EFF-Austin official after party, themed Cyberpunk 2014. Conceptualized and produced by your humble narrator, the event’s highlights included a cyberpunk scifi panel featuring Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, Gareth Branwyn, and Chris N. Brown and was moderated by Jon Lebkowsky, as well as MCCC’s incredible interactive display of vintage computing, the idea for which sprang from Torrence’s brain thanks to a simple request Branwyn had to have his Beyond Cyberpunk! hypercard stack run on a first generation Powerbook. Also featured in the exhibit was Bill (now William) Barker’s Schwa and Scanwave work.

The exhibit was a huge success and it was incredible to witness the wonder and sheer child-like joy on the faces of partygoers numbed out and uninspired by the latest, shiny tech as they played with this early technology. Torrence reminded me of a Tech Tigger, bouncing off the walls, he was so excited. He’s going places, and is a Really Nice Human Being™ to boot, so stay tuned!