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LEARNERS WITH EXCEPTIONALITIES Christine Lapka, Chairperson


A True Tale About Nurturing the Creative Musician


Mandy Harvey is an accomplished jazz singer. In her own words, “I guess I have an old soul and it (jazz) has always been a music that I liked and understood.” To hear her affi nity with the art form, I suggest listening to the music video of “Smile” (http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=OQR1uj5LUGU).


“Smile” is on my mind as I tell you that Mandy lost her hearing during her freshman year as a college music educa- tion major at Colorado State University. It is emotional enough to be in your fi rst year of college, but to lose your hearing too is unthinkable. “About two months after getting my hearing aids, I lost so much hearing that they did not help any more. It was surreal; the whole thing felt fake. I got horribly depressed, I got angry at everybody.”


But there is something to smile about. T is past June she earned the VSA Arts International Young Soloists Award, recorded two CDs, and sings (yes, sings) regularly at Jay’s Bistro. Jay Witlen, owner says, “T e old statement, when you’re given lemons make lemonade, couldn’t come in any truer. She has made the sweetest lemonade that any of us have ever enjoyed.”


T ree things are responsible for Mandy’s success. First of all, she learned how to “smile though your heart is aching” by taking a sign language class, moving on with a career (medical technology) and becoming active in deaf education. Coupled with her own drive, she had people who nurtured her musical talents. As she lost her hearing, her father wrote the song, “Do You Know How it Feels” (http://www.myspace.com/mandyandjo- eharvey#!/mandyandjoeharvey), to help


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Mandy express the emptiness, confusion and fear. When she returned from that horrible fi rst year of college, she played guitar with her father. When they found the song, “Come Home,” by One Re- public, he asked her to learn the singing part. A bit reluctant, she accepted the challenge. “It took me a little bit of time but I actually did it. Everything kind of turned around. Wait a minute . . . this is still a possibility . . . I can still do this.”


With this fi rst song learned, she had the confi dence to contact her former voice teacher, Ms Vaughn, who had a very natural reaction to Mandy’s request to start singing lessons again. Vaughn said, “I honestly thought, is she delusional, because I knew she was deaf.” After a hesitant yes, the fi rst lesson transpired. Vaughn went on to explain that she, like a good voice teacher, sat down and played a chord. When Mandy sang tonic, she “literally almost fell off the piano bench.” T en Vaughn played a vocal exercise. Standing a few feet away, not touching the piano, Mandy sang it right back. You see, Mandy has perfect pitch and great muscle memory. She remembers what the keys on the piano sound like and her past ability to sightread allows her to use her eyes to learn songs.


Not every student without hearing is going to have perfect pitch and benefi t from having hearing for around 18 years. But every student can have mentors, like Mandy’s father, to fi nd the right time to encourage them to take the next step or like Ms Vaughn to try some typical exercises and see how they go. What is the worst thing that could happen? T ey struggle and we suggest a diff erent direc- tion. Our job is to fi nd something for them to smile about.


Mandy Harvey, Jazz Singer http://www.youtube.com watch?v=JIa5yA1_d-M


Mandy Harvey, Jazz Singer: Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Kps1sRoahxY


producer/photographer, Mallory Pett


Music at: http://www.mandyharveymusic.com/


Smile, music video: http://www.youtube.com watch?v=OQR1uj5LUGU


Encourage Your Students to be a Part of VSA


VSA, the International Organization on Arts and Disability, was founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education op-


Illinois Music Educator | Volume 72 Number 1


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