Deaf singer Mandy Harvey has made headlines around the world after being put straight to the final of the america’s Got Talent. But when she took the stage, she has received death threats within the deaf community for the promotion of a “hearing” of the activity.
It was two months ago that Harvey sang live in prime time on the NBC television network in the united States. Barefoot and nervous, she overcame a series of injuries to get there.
“I used to get some pretty beefy letters and death threats,” she reveals. “I had a lot of reaction from some people in the community because I have been the promotion of oralism.”
Oralism is the name given to the practice of the education of deaf people in the use of speech and lip-reading rather than sign language.
It was first promoted at a conference in 1880, but despite the near-ban of nearly 140 years, the sign languages developed around the world, including British sign Language, and became a part of the Deaf culture – always written with a capital letter.
The shortened duration, as well as oral, is sometimes used to refer to deaf people who are thought to favor the hearing world.
Harvey, who is from Cincinnati, Ohio, said: “When you do something that is living inside the world of the hearing, as the music and the singing, it may be frowned upon because we are supposed to be encouraging American Sign Language (ASL).”
Charlie Swinbourne, editor of deaf blog Limping Chicken, said the term “oral” can also be used as an insult within the deaf community.
“This is like saying” you’re not one of us”. Although some deaf people use to describe themselves, I wouldn’t call someone oral out of the blue and because I can communicate with the word as a sign, I’ve had it said to me, which took me aback.”
He calls Harvey is the experience of one example of the “bad side of our community” and says that “even if she sings, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a foot in the deaf community”.
Harvey has gradually lost his hearing as a result of connective tissue disorders, Ehlers-danlos syndrome and by the time she was 19 years old, having just started college, she was legally deaf.
Prior to this, she said, “music is my life”. She had been accepted into Colorado State University to study Music Education, but, in a month, that “happy dream-bursting the bubble” when she had to sit a dictation test and a chart of each note played on the piano.
“I was sitting there, waiting for the test to begin, and I’m looking around the classroom and all these pencils are in motion and everyone starts to get up and hand in their papers, and one by one they left and I was just sitting there.”
“The pigeons told me to shoplift’
She has received a letter of this date asking him to leave the program, and as she returned to her rooms, a motorcyclist collided with it. He had been shouting at her to move, but she had not heard a thing.
“He broke me, and I’ve broken my hearing aid,” she said. “I’m sitting there and I’m looking for my hearing aid and looking at this piece of paper, and see the situation and I broke it. This was the moment that it was real.”
It has been estimated that a future in music would now be impossible and the disappointment has begun to take its toll.
“I made the mistake to associate the whole of my identity with a single dream and when this dream is dead, I very much felt like I’m dead. I became a husk of a person during a certain period of time.”
Harvey put his energy in the integration with the deaf community, but when his Father advised him to give music another go, she agreed, just to prove a point.
“Honestly, I was going to fail. I just wanted to do the best that I could and to prove that it was impossible so that we would not be talking again.”
Harvey received the sheet music for Come Home by OneRepublic and electric, tuner sang each note individually. Every time she made a mistake and that the light did not turn green to indicate it has been tuned, it has started again.
It took him 10 hours, but when she sang it through one last time, the green light did not waver.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “My perfect height and the muscle memory it all came together.”
She sent the recording of her ex-vocal coach who has been very surprised and encouraged to return to lessons. Shortly after, she had a slot booked to perform at a local jazz club.
“I was vomiting and crying most of the day before this time,” she said, but she got up on stage and made it through a song.
Harvey was asked to return, first with a few songs, and then in solo concerts. By the time america’s Got Talent came the call she had three studio albums and a tour to its name.
At night, she has appeared on NBC, she decided not to reveal that she was deaf, and took to the stage armed with a ukulele.
“I was very worried that they judge me on a pity vote instead of who I really am as a musician and I want to be considered a musician first,” she said.
Harvey performed an original song and it is very difficult to impress, Simon Cowell, pressed the golden buzzer and put it directly to the final where she finished fourth.
“I really wanted to change the idea of what is possible and to show that” deaf can ” and what better place to do it than on national television?
“If it hacks a couple of people, well, this is encouraging a heck of a lot more, so they can just get over it.”
Her career continues to bloom, but it still comes up against the skepticism of some professional musicians.
“This is an initial fear that you see on their face and they say:” I’m playing my role perfect and she can do whatever she is going to do”.”
But she has won over many of them and has its own method of “hearing” the music. She goes barefoot to feel the rhythm through the floor and feels the bass in his chest. To hit the timings perfectly, his fellow musicians use eye contact to signal the beginning and end of solos.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be part of a team,” she said. “My touring band, they are simply awesome, and they are all learning sign language, so that the wall of the communication is breaking.”
Even for the most seasoned of performers, hitting the right note can make or break a career.
As well as having an absolute ear – Harvey can find middle C in his mind, and then move on to the note and sing it – his experience of the execution has given him a new point of view.
“My hearing loss was always my greatest fear, then, what is the worst that can happen to sing the wrong notes? Who cares, it’s not going to kill you.
“There has been a couple of times, I started the song in the wrong key. We stop the song, we all laugh and we start the song again, and we’re going to do this.”
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