Mandy Harvey can flat out sing. Her feather-light tone and pitch-perfect approach place her in a fairly elite group of jazz musicians across the country, let alone ones that grew up in Longmont and attended college at CSU…and oh, by the way, she’s also deaf. Harvey wasn’t born that way; instead, she had her entire childhood and adolescence to build her dream of becoming a jazz singer before all sound was cut from her life. And then, she realized that while she couldn’t hear any longer, her voice worked, and there was no reason she couldn’t still sing. Now, she’s in heavy rotation at Fort Collins’ Jay’s Bistro and has been featured in JazzTimes. Here, she discusses perfect pitch, learning to sing twice and the freedom of deafness.
French Davis: We’ve heard stories about deaf musicians who were born deaf or became deaf very early in life, but you suffered hearing loss much later in life en route to achieving your dream of a career in music. When and how did you decide that this obstacle was something you could overcome?
Mandy Harvey: After I started learning ASL (American Sign Language) and was introduced to a lot of amazing people in the deaf culture, I realized that I wasn’t broken but just different. That meant that I had to learn to live/like/love my life. I met my now husband and when we were dating he went on a trip to see his family in Boston…while he was gone, I decided to send him a home recording of the One Republic song “Come Home”…after we finished learning, playing and recording the song, a light came on in my head that music was just another thing I needed to do differently.
FD: Can you tell us the story of how you lost your hearing?
MH: I have had hearing issues all my life. I actually took an ASL class in high school because I thought I was going to lose my hearing (or “gain deafness” as some of my deaf friends say). The issue is in my nerves and there isn’t a clear answer to what happened…all they really ever said was progressive nerve damage affecting my Cochlear nerves.
FD: In an age where legions of untalented singers who actually can hear are using tricks like auto-tune, how are you able to find your pitch and remain in key so effortlessly (at least from the observer’s point of view) with your accompaniment?
MH: Most of the work is based from muscle memory and having near perfect pitch. I also watch the piano to solidify my mind around the notes. The visual cues help me to be confident and then I just stop thinking about the music and just sing what feels right.
FD: How else has life changed after your hearing loss?
MH: Losing my hearing was the biggest fear I had growing up and it happened. It was a horrible time in my life but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I have a different perspective on what is possible and I have lost a lot of that feeling of being afraid. I have also been blessed with meeting amazing people and I am in a position to give someone hope to chase their dreams even when they seem impossible.
FD: What advice do you offer other artists who face similar challenges?
MH: Stop listening to the voice that tells you no. Music will never be the same for me and I might not be able to really enjoy it the way I used to but that just means I had to think about music in a different light. It took me a long time to be able to have the confidence to do so.