The inspiring true story of America's Got Talent Top Five Finalist Mandy Harvey—a young woman who became deaf at age nineteen while pursuing a degree in music—and how she overcame adversity and found the courage to live out her dreams.
When Mandy Harvey began her freshman year at Colorado State University, she could see her future coming together right before her eyes. A gifted musician with perfect pitch, she planned to get a music degree and pursue a career doing what she loved. But less than two months into her first semester, she noticed she was having trouble hearing her professors. In a matter of months, Mandy was profoundly deaf.
With her dreams so completely crushed, Mandy dropped out of college and suffered a year of severe depression. But one day, things changed. Mandy’s father asked her to join him in their once favorite pastime—recording music together—and the result was stunningly beautiful. Mandy soon learned to sense the vibrations of the music through her bare feet on a stage floor and to watch visual cues from her live accompaniment. The result was that she now sings on key, on beat, and in time, performing jazz, ballads, and sultry blues around the country—and all the way to the final stage of America’s Got Talent.
Full of inspiring wisdom and honest advice, Sensing the Rhythm is a deeply moving story about Mandy’s journey through profound loss, how she found hope and meaning in the face of adversity, and how she discovered a new sense of passion and joy.
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About the Author
Mandy Harvey is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and motivational speaker who lost her residual hearing at the age of nineteen while a freshman vocal major at Colorado State University. She pursued multiple career options, but returned to music, her true passion. She quickly became an in-demand performer and has released four albums. In 2011, Mandy won VSA’s Top Young Soloist Award and lived a personal dream of performing at the Kennedy Center in DC. She continues to perform around the United States and has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Canada AM, The Steve Harvey Show, and in the Los Angeles Times. She appeared on America’s Got Talent and earned a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell for performing her original song “Try.” In addition to performing and speaking, Mandy has become an ambassador for No Barriers USA with a mission to encourage, inspire, and assist others to break through their personal barriers. Sensing the Rhythm is her first book.
Read an Excerpt
Sensing the Rhythm
I’m standing in the wings, waiting to go on.
My band members are milling around, bantering in the casual way that accomplished musicians who are fully confident in their abilities tend to do. There’s not a jangled nerve among them, but there’s plenty of urgency, like tethered falcons hungry for the hunt. Once they settle behind their instruments, I will sever their bonds with a downbeat and watch them take flight.
It is a thing to behold, this unleashing of talent that fills a room with music the way water fills a submerged pitcher. Shoulders hunch, heads bob, brows wrinkle, fingers dance, all with a symmetry that could no more be prevented than it could be planned. The people in the audience will respond enthusiastically, of course, for they have not ended up here by circling the wrong date on their calendars or taking the wrong exit off the roundabout. They have come to witness the unleashing and to experience the filling.
Yes, it is quite a thing to behold.
It is no doubt quite a thing to hear, too, but I’ll have to take your word for that because tonight, once again, I will sing with my amazing musicians, everything from sultry ballads to blistering jazz, without hearing a single note.
It does to me, too.
I lost my hearing when I was nineteen. It happened over a period of a few months, leaving me profoundly deaf, which, by the way, is the official term for people who are unable to hear any sound below ninety-five decibels in their better ear. The less tactful among us might say that I’m “stone deaf” or “deaf as a post.” I just know that tonight I won’t hear what everyone else does.
When I walk onstage, I won’t hear the master of ceremonies say, “Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome Mandy Harvey!”
When my band kicks off the first tune, I won’t hear that amazing chord substitution my piano player throws in or the clever lick my sax player answers with.
When I finish the first tune, I will see the people clapping, but I won’t hear their applause.
Most people wonder how it’s possible for me to be an award-winning professional musician with such a drastic limitation.
How can I sing on pitch without hearing the notes?
How can I stay on beat without hearing the drums and bass?
How can I learn other composers’ songs when I can’t hear them?
How can I write my own songs without the ability to hear the notes and chords I have to choose from?
And, most of all, how did I keep from losing my mind, not to mention my faith, when, as a college music major dreaming of a career in music, my hearing started slowly and irrevocably slipping away?
I decided to write this book not just to answer these questions, but because the twisting, rocky, uphill road I’ve been on for the last ten years has given me some life-changing insights, some lessons that I feel are worth sharing.
I can’t tell you why I experienced the loss I have or even why I’m able to do what I do. I certainly never wanted to be that girl everyone hears about and says, “Wow, that’s weird!” But I must admit: this road, while excruciatingly hard at times, has opened my eyes to truths and realities that a lifetime of study and lectures would never have taught me. The result is that, even minus my hearing, I am a more complete person than I have ever been. Not perfect, as you will see, but farther along the road toward my potential than I would have been without the challenges I have faced.
As I tell you my story, my goal is to share the most pertinent of these life lessons with you in the hope that one or more of them might be just what you need to hear at a critical moment in your life. I promise not to bore you with a tedious chronology of everything that’s happened to me, but rather to show you some snapshots of those extraordinary moments when pain and truth collided, causing light and understanding to rain down around me. Perhaps what I share will help you in the way I have been helped.
And so, at the end of each chapter, I’ve included a page titled “Making Sense of YOUR Rhythm,” which summarizes the lessons in that chapter. It is my hope and prayer that the lessons I’ve learned along the way will give you hope—and maybe a little guidance—as you find your own unique and beautiful rhythm.
John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, once said, “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.”1 If this book, in some small way, helps you make the best of the way things have turned out in your life, it will have been worth it all.
Table of Contents
Introduction A thing to behold ix
1 You reap what you sew 1
2 No dream is immortal 13
3 The dead really do walk 25
4 Possibilities live outside the box 37
5 You can only become what you're willing to try 49
6 Dream thieves lurk in unexpected places 61
7 Playing it safe is the greatest risk of all 73
8 How is just as important as why 87
9 Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't real 101
10 There's no one quite as hurtful as a Christian trying to justify God 113
11 There is power in replacement 127
12 Pain is a friend masquerading as a monster 139
13 Pity is a monster masquerading as a friend 157
14 Fear will take as much from you as you allow 173
15 There really is a recipe for success 185
16 Caregivers are unsung heroes 199
Frequently asked questions 211
About the authors 225