Healthy Hearing conversation | Mandy Harvey uses music to create community
Thanks to the Golden Buzzer and a soft, lyrical voice that could easily belong to a Disney princess, singer songwriter Mandy Harvey competed fiercly to win the 12th season of America’s Got Talent. Although Harvey was nudged out of the win by young ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer, the opportunity was a dream come true for the jazz and pop singer. Mandy, who has a connective tissue disorder that affects her entire body, is deaf. Her journey to the national stage is as captivating as the songs she sings.
“I’ve had hearing issues my entire life,” she told Healthy Hearing, “but it started really showing in 2006-2007 when I was 18 or 19 years old. I was at Colorado State University with a degree focus of vocal music education. My heart was focused on vocal jazz. I wanted to become a teacher for college level students .”
As a result of her hearing loss, Mandy left the university and pursued other careers. Yet as her dream of becoming a music teacher slipped away, a new one took its place.
A new beginning
“My parents pushed me to pick up guitar again in the fall of 2008. It was never meant to be the start of a career. It was merely getting back to an activity I had been accustomed to,” she said, explaining that she grew up playing guitar with her dad. “Things then evolved to learning a new song to sing and spending more than eight hours to learn one song. I never expected to remember it and, if I am being very honest, I was looking forward to failing so I could close that chapter forever. As it turns out, my body remembered more than I thought, and the visual tuners and near perfect pitch I was born with gave birth to a new musical dream.”
Mandy, who has been singing since the age of 4, started performing in a small jazz club in Fort Collins in the fall of 2008. That led to an album, which led to more concerts and a tour. Today, she is an accomplished singer, songwriter and motivational speaker who is looking forward to releasing her fourth album and publishing her first book.
Feeling the music
Performing at this level takes a lot of effort and teamwork. Mandy said she begins learning a new song using full sheet music and visual tuners to help her walk through each note. As she repeatedly runs through the song, she uses the intervals and measures between the vocals to count beats and stay in the right place. Practicing with the band helps her with timing -- as does constantly counting measures and breaks. She performs barefoot so she can feel the beat vibrations. She said she is constantly surprised at how much people respond to her songs.
“Everyone has a story and we all are overcoming obstacles on a daily basis,” she said. “I think people gravitate to my music because I am telling honest stories despite the barriers that I am facing. I put a lot of love and heart into my music, and I hope people feel that.”
Motivating, connecting, inspiring
Mandy is also an accomplished motivational speaker, sharing how to overcome personal barriers with individuals, small groups and large, international crowds alike.
“Anytime I can connect with people is what I like best,” she replied, when asked if she enjoyed singing or motivational speaking the most. “I have found myself in a beautiful place working with amazing musicians whom I would call family at this point. So, selfishly I enjoy concerts just for the fact that I get to be with my best friends. They are slightly emotionally more difficult because I can’t understand what the final product is. If I focus on that loss, it will bring me down so I focus on the positives as much as possible.”
Mandy said several factors played a part in developing the connective tissue disorder that took her hearing and affected her vision -- surgeries, stress, medications, hormones. Now her hearing thresholds register at 110 decibels in both ears, meaning she can only hear loud sounds similar to the level of a jet engine. Since noise that loud can cause further damage to the ears, Mandy wears earplugs whenever she knows she’ll be in a loud environment.
An interpreter accompanies her on the road, including for her performances on America’s Got Talent. Auditioning for the nationally-televised talent competition was intimidating, but Mandy couldn’t resist the opportunity to share her inspirational message with its audience.
“America's Got Talent was always a terrifying adventure and far outside my comfort zone, but I was aiming to encourage a large amount of people,” she explained. “So, with help from friends and family, I was motivated to move past my fears and go for it!”
Mandy said she wants to dedicate her life to helping others by creating opportunities for communities to come together. A list of her upcoming shows as well as public speaking contact information is available on her website.
“Recently I was giving a speech and opened the floor for questions and stories from the audience, and a young woman told her story and as one group we all became connected,” she shared. “Every person has a story and we need to be open and honest about the things we are struggling with so we can encourage each other and find solutions...even if that solution is just knowing we are not alone.”
If you're beginning to notice hearing loss in yourself or a loved one, you're not alone either. Unlike Mandy Harvey's hearing loss, most are not severe and can be corrected with today's technology. The dedicated hearing care professionals in our directory are ready to test your hearing and discuss your options. Don't delay!