We are so happy to have met and had the opportunity to interview the amazingly talented jazz singer Mandy Harvey who, as she calls it "happens to have an invisible disability." A Vocal Music Education major at Colorado State University, Mandy lost her residual hearing in 2006-2007 at age eighteen due to a connective tissue disorder that affected her nerves. As a result, she left the program and pursued several career options, including education, but returned to music in 2008. Her true passion could no longer be denied. Mandy quickly became a regular performer at various venues and has released three albums thus far. Though her hearing loss is profound, her timing and pitch are perfect and her passion is tremendous. With support from friends, family and her faith, Mandy continues to find joy in music.
What inspires your music?
My music is inspired by my personal experiences. Up until recently I have mainly been performing music that I grew up loving and have many memories of. Recently though I have been diving into writing my own music, and this adventure is inspired by the people I meet along the way.
Can you tell us about some of the obstacles you’ve faced?
As a child I dealt with constant ear infections and surgeries. I grew up with a fear of losing my hearing but retained enough that I was hopeful I could manage. During my freshman year at college I found my hearing to be leaving swiftly, and with it my dreams of music education. I later found that a lot of my medical issues are linked to my connective tissue disorder and now I am finding a new way to navigate my life. It has been a long road already but each day brings a new hurdle to jump over, and I remain motivated to keep moving forward.
You and Heather are both very involved with No Barriers, how did you first find the organization?
I found No Barriers when I was asked to sing for a planning meeting. Someone had seen me perform and we ended up talking about how we both wanted to improve the lives of those around us. After learning about all of the amazing things this group does I fell in love and wanted to do whatever I could to help spread encouragement and help others to overcome their barriers.
Through No Barriers, you have lent your talent and experience to bring confidence to others through your songwriting clinics. Tell us a little bit about it and how you started the initiative?
I was asked to teach a clinic at No Barriers' 2015 summit and it was yet another way for me to get out of my comfort zone and an opportunity to help others so I created a beginners class on Songwriting and Expressions. Focusing on the benefits of music not only as a form of expression but medically. We also focused on song writing exercises and had a lot of fun working together as a group to create something from scratch. I have also created classes on the beginning studies of feeling music. Focused on feeling vibrations instead of relying on sound. It has been amazing to teach and in a small way makes me feel like I am getting back a small part of my music education dreams that I thought died.
(Sign up for the No Barriers 2016 Summit
where Mandy will be performing at the opening ceremony.)
Do you have any pre-show rituals you practice prior to going on stage?
I have three songs I sing to myself before I start every show...they work my vocal range and make me smile. One of those songs is "You're the Top" by Cole Porter. It is a favorite of mine and has been since I was in middle school. I also kick off my shoes and walk around the stage while the musicians are getting ready so I can focus on the vibrations on the floor. Performing barefoot allows me to continue focusing on the vibrations to keep me in time so I am singing with the band and not off in my own little world!
How does fashion play a role in your life?
I am new to the fashion world. I have always been a tomboy so now I am learning more about clothes and what works best for my shape. Because of my connective tissue issues I have always leaned towards conservative clothes that cover as much as possible. My legs swell and bruise really easily so I have always been afraid of having them show. Now I have found that wearing tights or leggings on a daily basis has not only helped my circulation but it has also helped my self-esteem...I am making it a point this year to wear dresses and skirts a lot more often!
What are some of your favorite Yummie styles?
I am in love with so many Yummie pieces - I especially love the leggings and tights! Yummie tights are my favorite to perform in... I wear them all the time and they hold up against a lot of abuse (haha!). I can’t get enough of the bras. It has been such a struggle to find something that fits me and doesn't dig or create bumps. I tossed out all of my other bras, and I only wear yummie bras now - I was just so tired of being uncomfortable. I also love the versatility and comfort of the loungewear. The fabrics are so soft and lightweight, I feel relaxed whether I'm at home or recording in the studio. I am systematically replacing all of my wardrobe essentials with Yummie!
You mentioned in past conversations that you’re looking to empower yourself even further by overcoming your fears. What do you plan to do and what do you hope to get out of it?
I am a ball of fear! I am scared of so many different things and it has prevented me from really experiencing a lot that life has to offer. I have decided that I am no longer going to live my life in fear and am going to make it a point to put myself out there. That means trying things I have never done before and facing fears that I have been hiding from my whole life. I am hoping that seeing me overcome my own obstacles will inspire others to venture out and face their own personal fears. I would also love to face fears with other people because we are not alone in this and I think together we are stronger. Let's do this!
For more on Many Harvey visit her website: http://www.mandyharveymusic.com/
Watch Mandy perform Butterfly Kisses & Get Well Wishes, a song she wrote in honor of the Guardian Brain Foundation.