When autocomplete options are available, use up and down arrows to review and enter to select.
Apply Give

Alumna composes music for history-making ‘JESUS’ Deaf film

Liberty University alumna Lee Armbrust (’21) played a vital role in the production of the upcoming movie “JESUS,” the first film depicting Jesus’ life through American Sign Language and featuring a cast and crew who are Deaf.

Originally from Fremont, Neb., Armbrust, who is Deaf, earned a B.M. in Commercial Music: Film Scoring from Liberty. Her post-sound and music company, LA Composer Studio, which she founded with Andrija Lazarevic, was hired by Director Joseph D. Josselyn to compose the music and sound for the film.

Lee Armbrust

“JESUS,” a film from Deaf Missions, opens in theaters June 20. (The film is showing at Regal River Ridge Cinemas in Lynchburg June 20-21; check local theaters for other times). The film takes viewers on a journey with Jesus and His disciples to witness His miracles, His transformative power, and His challenges to the religious elite in a time of high tension under Roman rule in Judea. It is the first film of its kind among over 2,000 films that have been made about Jesus in different languages. Armbrust said she believes the film will make a large impact on both the Deaf and hearing communities.

“Most of the time, Deaf people are side characters in movies. This time, it’s a full movie, where everything — truly everything — is in ASL,” Armbrust signed in ASL and spoke during a virtual interview from her home in Serbia this week. “When a Deaf person watches that, no matter what kind of sign language they know, they are going to be drawn into it because it’s really fascinating, and you never see signing on the big screen outside of the Deaf community.”

Because so many Deaf people have hearing family members, she said creating a soundtrack for the movie (which will also have English subtitles) allows them to experience it together in ways that each of them are able to appreciate and understand. Armbrust wrote the music and helped with sound design while Lazarevic did most of the sound editing.

Armbrust first heard about the film the summer after she graduated from Liberty and contacted Josselyn.

“When a director gives us a film, they’ll usually tell us exactly what they want,” she said. “With this (film), both the director and producer are Deaf, so they had no concept of sound to tell us what to do. Everything was adjusted to what they wanted the audience to feel. In this case, we had to make the feeling.”

Armbrust said they had to develop a “mood” based on the vision and goals of Josselyn and Producer Michael Davis. “They had told us at the start that they wanted to inspire people, to motivate people toward something. When you watch the film, there’s a lot of different emotions; we have to connect with the actors to think how they would actually feel during this moment. Then we make music and sound related to that.”

Armbrust said she treasures the unique opportunity to serve with Deaf coworkers.

“Working with Deaf people, I love it. There’s no boundaries with communication; I don’t need to guess what you are saying or read lips.”

She noted that both Josselyn and Davis are extremely gifted, and their talents and abilities are not limited by their hearing status.

“They are both amazing people, and I am so happy that God brought them into my life and that I was able to meet them.”

She explained that while she is Deaf, she has been able to use her musical talents for the big screen and live out her dream of a career in music composition.

“I do not hear any low sounds, and middle sounds are iffy; however, I have pretty decent ‘sound imagination’ and know what is supposed to be there in general,” she said. “I rely on my sight in the program I use to make sure those parts make sense. My co-founder, Andrija, generally can catch and correct things that are wrong or clear mistakes, and he makes sure everything is balanced correctly. I never truly hear everything, but I hear it in my mind and through my sight!”

Andrija Lazarevic (left) and Lee Armbrust (right), co-founders of LA Composer Studio

Armbrust credits her education at Liberty, particularly Associate Professor of Film Scoring Chris Piorkowski, with giving her the courage to pursue a film project such as this.

“(Piorkowski) always said, ‘Someone, somewhere, needs something only you can do,’” she recalled. “That’s really motivating because I know that even if people deny me or ignore me — which they often do — I just know they aren’t that someone. But there is still someone, somewhere, that needs what only I can do.”

Armbrust, who became a Christian at 5 years old, said being at Liberty helped strengthen her faith as she entered the music and film industry.

“If I hadn’t had a Christian foundation and knew my professors had worked in that kind of world and still focused on God, I truly believe I wouldn’t be a Christian now.”

Through her work on “JESUS,” Armbrust is living out her faith and helping spread the story of Christ to over 70 million Deaf individuals who otherwise would not receive the Gospel message in their heart language.

Armbrust and Lazarevic are currently finishing up some film music projects to post on Spotify and doing sound for a short film. They will be working on a new film this fall.

Chat Live Chat Live Request Info Request Info Apply Now Apply Now Visit Liberty Visit Liberty