106: Music Without Sound—How Mandy Harvey Rebuilt a Thriving Singing Career after Losing Her Hearing

It was love at first listen when I first heard Mandy Harvey perform at a fundraiser for Erik Weinenmayer's No Barriers summit coming up here in New York City in October. Erik, a previous guest on the Pivot Podcast (Turning Pain Into Purpose: Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer on Kayaking the Grand Canyon, Climbing Everest and Building No Barriers), said Mandy was a must-meet, and he was right. Her performance was exquisite, and I was mesmerized by her signing while singing and sharing her inspiring story with the audience. 

With lifelong dreams of being a musician and music teacher, Mandy was devastated to lose her hearing completely ten years ago during college. You might already know her story if you are one of half a billion (with a B!!) people who have watched her America's Got Talent audition—that's a must before you even listen to this episode.

I cried when Simon Cowell asked what motivated her to be there, and she said at “After I lost my hearing I gave up. But I want to do more with my life than just give up.” I assure you, there was not a dry eye in the audience either as they give a standing ovation midway through, including the judges! Even Simon came out of his curmudgeonly shell to say, "I’ve done this a long time and that was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and heard.” I hope you enjoy this conversation with Mandy as much as I did—which she did with the help of a live captioner while we were on video Skype. 

Taking a page out of Mandy's book, for accessible viewing and listening here's a video version on YouTube with closed captions (full Pivot Podcast YT playlist with ~30 recent episodes here) and a written transcript of our conversation.

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/mandy-harvey. Enjoying the show? Make my week by donating just $1 and episode at Patreon.com/pivot.

More About Mandy Harvey

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Mandy Harvey is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and inspirational speaker who lost her residual hearing at the age of nineteen while pursuing a degree in music. Mandy tours the world performing her original music and presenting her inspirational story of never giving up and continuing to try – she calls these messages Wisdom For Life. Mandi is the author of Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound (Simon & Schuster) which came out in September 2017. Mandy is also an Ambassador for No Barriers USA, co-founded by Erik Weihenmayer who was a previous guest on this show and the person who introduced us. With No Barriers she travels the country to heighten awareness, break down blocks, challenge stereotypes, and lead the charge toward a brighter future for all.

Topics We Cover

  • “Every dream I’d ever had growing up was somehow connected to music. I desperately needed my ears to cooperate, and they wouldn’t.” and “So many things I loved were no longer mine, and in their place were changes I didn’t want.”
  • No dream is immortal. On motivational speakers telling people to never give up on their dreams. Mandy: “But what if your dream gives up on you? What do you do when your dream dies?"
  • The theology of the healthy: naive notion that if you just do your part, fate will do its part and everyone will live happily ever after.
  • Hardships always feel like a subtraction. Depression, feeling like the walking dead
  • Dad said, “You don’t have to look for some master plan here, just stay on the path of faith."
  • How she did this interview over Skype (the mechanics)
  • Methodology behind performing feeling the vibrations with her body, singing with bare feet
  • Reminder to keep in mind that some disabilities are invisible; people judging, jumping to conclusions 
  • Her work with no barriers; Erik as the reason she started writing her own music
  • Sympathy vs. empathy vs. pity / Don’t try to rescue disabled people - “disability doesn’t mean no ability”
  • Learning ASL, how music interpreters work, on signing while singing
  • Annie, her guide dog and how she helped Mandy overcome her fear of sounds she was missing (intruders, fire alarm) 
  • Advice from Mandy: use Identity-first language, not disability first. You wouldn’t say, “She’s his divorced sister or financially strapped sister” or “blind sister.” Just say she’s his sister. 
  • On healthy fellowships versus toxic ones
  • “Music was not, in fact, my identity. It was my gift.” 
  • "Pain offers you as much as it takes from you, and sometimes more.”
  • “Music is my way of expressing what is in my heart and my soul."

Music Without Sound: How Mandy Harvey Rebuilt a Thriving Singing Career after Losing Her Hearing

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