Can Deaf People Appreciate Music?

Mandy Harvey is a strong inspiration to so many

By Jon Liebman
August 2, 2018

This week’s interview with Mandy Harvey is truly powerful. Mandy grew up loving all types of music. As a child, she sang in the choir. She also studied piano and guitar, with the hopes of someday becoming a music teacher. She went to college for vocal music education. She’s released three albums as a leader, and has a fourth one in the works. Mandy plays the ukulele and sings. She was recently featured on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

Mandy Harvey is completely deaf.

Mandy grew up slightly hard of hearing, the result of a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 3. During her freshman year in college, she lost 100% of her residual hearing, all within a 9-month period.

Not surprisingly, her initial reaction was one of denial, frustration, sadness, etc. Convinced that when her dream of a life in music had died, she died with it. At first, she gave up, not only on her musical aspirations, but on life in general. She became “a miserable person,” who didn’t even like to go outside because the sun was just “too shiny and happy.”

After having lived that way for about a year and-a-half, Mandy realized there was nothing she could do about her condition, and thus made a life-changing decision to see things differently. She began getting involved in the deaf community, including American Sign Language, where she learned an entirely new way to communicate. She started saying “Yes” to things. With unwavering encouragement from her family and the rest of her support system, Mandy began to feel more positive about life.

She’s even discovered an entirely new way to enjoy and appreciate music. “I have trained myself to be able to pay attention more to vibrations and how music feels, versus relying solely on my ears,” she says. “And then when I’m playing instruments,” she continues, “I pay more attention to how it feels, the touch of it, holding on to the instrument, feeling the vibration down your arm, through your fingertips.” Mandy finds the bass “especially amazing” in the way that “you can feel it from your head to your toes.”

Mandy does a lot of motivational speeches and workshops, working with children with – and without – disabilities. She recently returned from a trip to Nepal with the No Barriers organization, taking a group of 12 disabled and “differently abled” students to work together as a team. A powerful example of playing the hand you’re dealt in life, Mandy is a truly inspirational musician and human being.

You can watch my entire interview with Mandy here (highly recommended!).

For more information:

No Barriers

American Sign Language

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