1. News

Clearwater kindergartener's sign language concert goes viral

Published Dec. 13, 2013

Lori Koch and her husband, Tom, took their seats in the front row for their kindergartener's Christmas concert. The Kochs, both deaf, positioned themselves near an interpreter.

They were expecting their daughter to sing her heart out, along with the other 5-year-olds.

They weren't expecting a YouTube sensation.

Claire isn't deaf, but the Kochs' blond daughter looked straight at her parents and signed every word of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer so they could understand.

"I didn't ask her, it wasn't expected, it was just a surprise," said Lori Koch, 38.

After the concert, the Kochs couldn't stop cheering.

And they had plenty of company. By Thursday, a video Koch posted to YouTube was bouncing across the Internet, from Buzzfeed to London's Daily Mail. Late Thursday it appeared likely to pass 1 million views on YouTube.

"I just was amazed," Lori said. "I couldn't believe the attention that it got."

In a week where many in the deaf community were horrified by a bogus interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, the Kochs hope their daughter's viral video performance will present a more uplifting image.

A kindergartener at Plumb Elementary in Clearwater, Claire has been using American Sign Language since she was about 6 months old. Her first signed word was "milk."

English came later. But as a child of a deaf adult, Claire and her younger sister, 2-year-old Charlotte, have been steeped in the culture of American Sign Language.

Tom, 41, owns Aqua Hands, a company that teaches the hearing-impaired how to scuba dive. Lori works for Clearwater-based company that helps deaf people communicate by phone.

This Christmas, Claire wanted her parents to know what she was singing.

"It made me happy,'' she said, "because Mom and Dad can understand the music now.''

Claire Wiseman can be reached at or (727)-893-8804. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.


  1. Dr. James Quintessenza, left, will return as the head of the Johns Hopkins All Children's heart surgery program department. UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY HOSPITAL  |  Times
    The heart surgery program’s mortality rate spiked after the surgeon left, a 2018 Times investigation revealed.
  2. Toby Johnson is the new principal of Martinez Middle School. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff
    The School Board also suspended Martinez Middle’s former principal.
  3. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  4. Duke Energy Co. workers are competing in a line worker competition in Kansas this week. | [Courtesy of Duke Energy Florida] Duke Energy Florida
    Four Duke Energy Florida competitors are from Tampa Bay, as well as two coaches.
  5. An 18 month-old girl died after being left in a car Monday. No charges are expected, police say. WFTS  |  Courtesy of
    No charges are expected after 18 month-old girl was left in a Jeep as her father took a truck to work, police say.
  6. University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle pieces together a skull that might have been Amelia Earhart's. SANDRA C. ROA  |  University of South Florida
    DNA from a skull found in 1940 could prove whether the famous aviator has been found.
  7. Alexandra Toigo, 32 and Sabrina Pourghassem, 23, pose for a photo at Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg holding their signature beer mugs during Oktoberfest 2018. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The beer hall’s property owners filed a lawsuit saying the restaurant missed its rent starting in August.
  8. Port Tampa Bay on Tuesday agreed to sell a half-acre it owns near the Florida Aquarium for $4.7 million to Streams Capital of Tampa, which is looking at building a 33-story condominium and hotel tower. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
    The buyer, Streams Capital of Tampa, is looking at building a 33-story tower with a hotel, condominiums and retail.
  9. Nearly a year after it was left abandoned and half-sunk off the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, a salvage crew finally raised and towed the Moonraker II to the Courtney Campbell boat ramp. It is slated to be crushed. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The boat was an eyesore to those who live off Tampa Bay. Then it became a political statement. Now it’s been towed and will soon be crushed.
  10. Republican Sen. Joe Gruters said Florida consumers are required to pay the sales tax, but rarely do so if online sellers don't collect it.
    The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday.