Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 29: Mandy Harvey

There once was a man who walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. After the tightrope had been fixed in place, he started gathering a crowd to watch his daring and dangerous feat. “Come one! Come all!” he shouted into his bullhorn. “Watch me walk above Niagara Falls, balancing on nothing more than this little rope!”

As people started gathering, he passed around a sample of the rope so people could see how small it was. “One little slip, and I will tumble to my death in the waters below!” he shouted. “You never know when I might fall. The rope is getting wet from the misting water. A wind is coming up the gorge. I don’t want to die, but today could be the day!”

As the crowd swelled even more, he shouted to those who had gathered, “Who believes I can walk across the falls and back without falling to my death below?”

Most of the crowd shouted that they believed he could do it. Many of them cheered him on to try it. So he climbed up onto the rope, and balanced his way across Niagara Falls. When he reached the far side, he turned around and came back. He didn’t slip. He didn’t fall. In fact, he barely wobbled or wavered. So when he returned to the safety of the shore, he motioned with his hands for the cheering crowd to quiet down.

“That was too easy!” he yelled. “That wasn’t a challenge for me at all! Let’s make it more difficult! Who believes I can do again, but this time, while pushing a wheelbarrow? If my hands are on the wheelbarrow, I will not be able to use them to balance on the rope. Shall I give it a try? Do you believe I can do it?” He motioned to a nearby wheelbarrow, which he had brought for this very purpose.

The crowd cheered their approval, which caused the number of gathering people to swell even further. So with the help of two nearby men, he lifted a wheelbarrow up onto the rope, and then started pushing it across the Falls. He went more slowly this time, and even had a few wobbles, which caused the crowd to gasp and cry out with fear, but he made it to the other side and back without any great problem. The crowd went wild.

“That was too easy!” he yelled. “Who believes I can do it again, but this time, with another person inside the wheelbarrow?” The crowd roared their approval. “I would not only be risking my own life, but also the life of the person in the wheelbarrow,” the man shouted to the crowd. “With a show of hands, let me see how many of you believe I can do this!” Almost every person in the large crowd raised their hand. It was nearly unanimous.

“Wonderful! I am so glad to see that you have such faith in me! I think I will give it a shot!” the man yelled. “Now … among all of you who raised your hand, do I have a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow?” Every hand in the large crowd went down. “What?” said the man. “You’ve seen me walk across Niagara Falls twice without any problems, once while pushing this wheelbarrow! And most of you believe I can do it with someone else in the wheelbarrow with me! But when I ask which of you wants to get into the wheelbarrow, none of you volunteer? Do you believe I can do it or not?”

But there were no takers, so the crowd did not see him push someone across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow that day.

Ok, ok, ok. is this a joke, I hear you say? Exactly the same introductory paragraph as my blog about Canadian country artist Lindsay Ell a few weeks ago? Did I do a typo? Am I just lazy? Or is the way of looking at this up and coming artist and who I’m writing about this week so very much engrained with what the above story speaks about at the heart of its core- coincidence or otherwise? Or is this a crafty way for me to grab everyone’s attention, and then say ‘gotcha! This above story about the man walking on Niagara Falls has nothing to do with deaf singer Mandy Harvey!’? Well… I’m not going to answer that question right away! For that… you’ll have to read on. Sneaky, aren’t I?

Essentially the above story (inspired by the real life tightrope walker of Charles Blondin) speaks about a man who is so secure in his identity, in his ability and in the sturdiness of the tightrope, that he shows us many times that he’s able to walk across it with ease. I mean I don’t know how high Niagara Falls is (is that shame on me?) but I’d imagine that this guy is pretty high up. he’s walking on a rope that could be frayed and second hand. The rope could also be possibly bowing and buckling underneath the weight and pressure of the guy walking across- depending on how quickly he walks. Then he takes a wheelbarrow and walks over with ease, and then in some variations of the story which I can no longer find on the internet, the guy puts dirt or water or something else in the wheelbarrow (besides a human!) and then proceeds to walk across. I don’t know if he did it with ease or not, but what matters is that he did it. And then he asks one person from the crowd to hop in. Though before that he asks the crowd that’s forming and who is obviously supporting him and his journey whether they believe that he’d be able to successfully walk across the tightrope and back with a wheelbarrow and a person inside. Everyone says yes (no surprise!), but no one is willing to be the one in the wheelbarrow. A surprise at first, but is it really when you think about it and ponder over it for a second? I mean does this mean that if no one is willing to step in the wheelbarrow, do they have no faith and no trust in the man walking over Niagara Falls, or is it just no faith in the wheelbarrow, or no faith in our own abilities to keep still in the wheelbarrow despite what is happening around us? something to indeed ponder over, don’t you think?

Though I have surmised in my previous blog that Lindsay Ell going through the process of recording The Continuum Project seemed to be a metaphor for her stepping out into the wheelbarrow and onto the tightrope- going out of her comfort zone and into her greatest fears; I firmly believe that the story of the man walking on Niagara Falls and calling each of us out to walk with him in a wheelbarrow, is a story that is applicable to everyone. And this is why I have included the same story verbatim as I am speaking about Mandy Harvey. Mandy is a brilliant and powerful singer. Yet if you thought that Lindsay was taking a bold step out of her comfort zone… then Mandy has taken an even bigger one- and her faith and trust in God is so, so admirable. There is no greater sense of honesty and vulnerability I firmly believe, than trying to be a light for Jesus, or even trying to be a positive influence in the world, without the function of one of your body parts. So as I undertake this ‘unique’ blog of sorts (in which I will mainly be writing about Mandy’s testimony rather than her songs!), let me say that as of right now, Mandy Harvey is one of the most influential people at the moment in my opinion, and someone we all need to look up to. The way she has adapted to change after change after change, and not let it break her or wear her down… is remarkable and nothing short of a miracle. Some would say that Mandy has defied the odds and has shown us that God can and will do miracles. Yet while I firmly believe that’s true- that Mandy’s life indeed reveals to us the presence of a loving and a just God in this world; what Mandy also reveals is that never-say-die attitude and that never-giving-up spirit instilled in each of us. we all want to succeed- and if we take Mandy’s blueprint of how to succeed, and even succeed at half of that; then I say we’re pretty good and we will be content and satisfied with life in a general sense.

I don’t know if we’ve written about this. Maybe I have. maybe my brother Jon has. But Jon and I were born 3 months premature. Jon stayed in hospital for 8 months straight, and then in and out for a number of years until he was 5 or 6. I stayed in hospital for around about 4 months straight- and both of us had a huge amount of health complications. Jon had breathing problems, respiratory issues that I don’t really know that half of it scientifically, while Mum had told me that there was a time where there was a blood clot in my brain. Several times Jon held his breath in hospital until he fainted- and all throughout kindergarten Jon had aa hole in his neck taped up with sticky tape. It was the only way that he could breathe until he had an operation in 1996. Yep, we’ve indeed had a rough life in our formative years, and we’ve had a pretty sheltered childhood. Mum and Dad have told friends and family and acquaintances our story as a testament to God’s faithfulness and His providence over our lives. Yet as remarkable as our story is, our lives aren’t as remarkable or as significant compared to Mandy’s. Because Mandy is deaf. Mandy doesn’t have that sense of hearing anymore. And Mandy should be angry and vicious and resentful to God, who may not have caused her deafness but certainly didn’t stop it. Yet as we see Mandy’s life and how it still reflects Jesus despite great personal upheaval and personal cost; we begin to realise that gratefulness and thankfulness to God for our own lives, as messy and as complicated as it may be, is what we need to have. Mandy is overall grateful, so why shouldn’t we be?

My body attacked itself, and so over a period of nine months I lost the ability to hear. The nerves in my brain kind of fried themselves. Having my world be swallowed seemed to happen overnight, but as far as my faith goes — you start out with the typical things. I had prayed every prayer you can think of.

[But one day] I was strumming the guitar and I could feel the vibrations of the instrument… I was [then] singing with such freedom, because I just didn’t care. I have always been scared to sing in front of other people.

God is not a bully with a stick … it’s not some kind of cosmic joke. He’s a dad watching his kids suffer and he’s crying with you. Bad things happen … you live on Earth. It’s a broken place. It’s full of muck and mess and people who have freewill who make horrible decisions. It’s not our job to understand what tomorrow’s going to look like. It’s our job to keep walking the path of faith, regardless of what happens.

Some of you may say that I’ve been smoking something or I’m high or something like that. Because I’m sure that for many people in the deaf community who have grown up with no hearing- that’s the only way of life they’ve known, and while some are still hopeful of interacting with the hearing world through hearing aids, reading lips and sign language, and a combination of those three elements; others wear their deafness as a badge of honour, a proud moment of display that lets the whole world know that being deaf ‘is the best’ and that it makes them who they are. So for me to say that Mandy’s story is remarkable because she is deaf may ruffle some feathers if you do indeed belong to that community or know someone who is deaf and is thriving… yet though I am indeed sorry for offending anyone in any way who is deaf; I still firmly believe that at the end of the day we all want to be like a normal human being. The blind person wants to see, the deaf want to hear, the lame want to walk, the terminally sick want to be fully well, and the mentally broken want to be restored. So at the core of who we are, is this longing to be made fully whole, to essentially be complete physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, in every way like Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. At the core of who we are we long to have every part of us working, so that we can live life without any difficulties. And while we do live in a sinful world where brokenness does exit and will never fully be eradicated this side of heaven- when we hear and see good news stories that show those with ‘disabilities’ (or people who don’t look like the norm) overcoming obstacles that would normally faze and stumble them… we sit up and take notice. That’s the case for jazz musician Mandy Harvey, although it’s taken her a long, long time for her to get to where she is right now.

I made the mistake of attaching my entire identity to singing and music…I didn’t know who I was anymore…It swirled me into a depression I did not know I was ever gonna fully get out of.

It wasn’t just me [Bible study peers making Mandy feel worse]…There was another gentleman who lost his wife in childbirth and his two-year-old daughter was dying of cancer – and they were doing the same thing to him: [saying] ‘If you just had enough faith, your faith would move mountains.’ But what you’re telling me is that this is my fault and my responsibility and I have the will to manipulate God in some manner to make my life perfect. That’s just wrong. Instead of praying for me to have strength or wisdom to make good decisions or patience to deal with the day-to-day, they kept praying for a miracle that wasn’t happening – and then blaming me when it didn’t.

It’s funny how much advice you get from people who aren’t actually in pain. They always have quick fixes, [like] ‘stay positive, stay true to yourself, and keep your eyes focused on what’s really important.’ When your world has just shattered, there’s nothing that you’re gonna be able to say that’s gonna pull me out of my funk in two seconds. This is a process, and I needed to learn not just how to get back into music. That wasn’t even close to the idea. It was learning how to wake up and breathe and be okay with the fact that my life has changed.

[I learned] that God’s not a bully with a stick beating you down. He’s holding your hand, hoping you’re going to take another step forward. I wish that we could all understand that the world is broken, that life is messy and bad things happen. We’re not supposed to have all of the answers or try to figure it out or sugarcoat every moment. We’re supposed to hold each other’s hands and say, ‘We’re gonna get through this together. What can I do for you?’ Why can’t we ask those questions instead of just telling me how to fix my life. Ask me how you can help.

I lay there on the floor and thought to myself, ‘I’m gonna lay here forever [when I fell down the stairs]. I’m gonna give up forever – unless I don’t. I had a lot of people encouraging me constantly, but all of that meant nothing if I didn’t make the choice myself. And so I made the choice to stand up. I didn’t see light or hope or happiness, but I was determined that I was going to make it. So it was taking a lot of small steps, one after another.

In response to friend Erik Weihenmayer asking ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ in response to Mandy singing her own songs: I [didn’t] have an answer for that. I survived the thing I knew for sure was going to kill me. And I didn’t die. I’m here and I’m still chasing music. What’s the worst that can happen? At least I’m telling my stories, even if no one wants to hear them. They’re mine and I’m expressing myself and it’s therapeutic and it’s beautiful. And so the reason why I even started writing music was just an honest conversation between friends.

Singing at this point is very much for other people. I don’t get to hear it as it comes out, so I’m singing for you. I’m trying to encourage you and make you smile. If that means I have to put myself in uncomfortable situations, so be it.

So many people have reached out and they’re telling me their stories and their pain and they’re not giving up because of something that I said. Them not giving up is going to encourage other people to not give up, and it’s going to have a ripple effect…So why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?

I don’t see God as a bully with a stick anymore. I aim to see him as a Father, as somebody who cries with you when you fail or struggle – and someone who is encouraging you when you get back up and wants you to do wonderfully. I’m very aware that just because bad things happen, doesn’t mean that it’s because God looked the other way. But there’s a lot of growing that’s happening in my life, even still. That’s the beautiful thing about having a relationship: it’s an everyday learning experience, and I feel like I have a lot more faith and lot more trust than I ever did.

What I’d normally do if this was any other artist and any other blog was that I’d dive deep into the music, and analyse almost every song in light of everything that has happened in their life and what the lyrics mean to me. I’d probably do that for around 3/4 of the blog and then round it up by saying something inspiring and speaking about artist’s achievements outside of music. That’d be it, week in and week out. And that’s not really a bad way to talk about an artist. Yet Mandy’s story is so profound that I can’t not talk about it. And in this blog, as I’m writing, it’s evident that Mandy’s songs aren’t what make her influential or encouraging or inspirational. It’s her story. Her story of determination and resilience and putting faith and trust in god despite every natural instinct telling her not to and telling her to give up. it’s the fact that she’s still alive and still thriving that makes me declare that even if Mandy only released one song or one album or nothing, and was just singing for fun after her hearing loss, that wouldn’t change the extent of her importance and influence. I hope you know what I mean- but what I’m basically saying that while for other artists I have written about they’re influential mainly for the songs they write and the subject matter, Mandy’s influential simply because she is singing despite the world saying that she can’t anymore. Never mind what she is singing about (although he albums are pretty deep and meaningful!)- the fact that she is singing is reason enough for you all to check out this amazing young woman of God, as she encourages us all with her gumption, her hope and her still positive outlook on this world. And as we read the key points above of an interview Mandy had with Aleteia about her memoir Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound; we can see a young woman grounded and still believing in a faithful God. Can any of us do that- still believe when our world is crashing down on us? I’d like to say yes, but perhaps not. Hopefully though, Mandy’s story can help us remember that it is not our limitations that define us, but rather the way we react to them that can help develop our character and make us stronger human beings.

While Mandy has unveiled 4 albums (Smile in 2009, After You’ve Gone in 2010, All Of Me in 2014 and Nice To Meet You just last year!), I want to be honest with you. Aside from a number of songs on Nice To Meet You, I haven’t listened to Mandy’s music. I’ve listened to a few tracks to know that the kind of subject matter she’s singing about isn’t explicit material like some pop stars and rap stars these days (because if she was singing about questionable material, I wouldn’t be writing about her, no matter how inspiring her testimony is!); but aside from that I’m going into this blog blind. Is that irresponsible, considering that I would have done oodles and oodles more preparation and listening to albums for blogs for other artists? Some would say yes, but because I decided about a month ago that Mandy Harvey would be in this blog series no matter what she sung about (well, as long as it was encouraging- but a month ago I kind of knew that Mandy was singing about inspirational and hopeful topics anyway!)- simply because of her remarkable testimony and her story that is encouraging beyond belief, and is inspiring us all to be better people; would me listening to the songs in depth change my mind or make me somehow feel important as I say ‘look at me, I’ve listened to a deaf person’s album thoroughly and many times, I’m so, so, so inclusive!’? It may have, however if Mandy is first and foremost influential because of her faith in Jesus despite her hardships and the fact that she’s been able to overcome her fears and her deafness and live a life that is still beyond her wildest dreams; wouldn’t I speak about that more in depth rather than about what ‘this song means’ and ‘that songs means’? After all most songs are subjective, and we glean whatever we see from them, which could indeed be different from person to person… So as we all immerse ourselves in Mandy’s music, myself included, over the next few weeks and months, let us remember that this young girl had a massive life alteration, and she has adapted beyond what she could possibly have envisioned, and beyond what we all could dream that she could. While we’re listening to powerful ballads like “This Time” and “Try” (see, I have done a bit of homework… a little bit!), haunting and mysterious tracks like “Release Me”, and “Waking Up”, inspirational melodies like “Don’t Let Go”, “Heart On Fire” and just plain brilliant and compelling songs like “Waiting” and “One Minute”; let us remember that- that Mandy has gone through so much hardship, she’s stayed the course, and kept the faith- and her music reflects the tumultuous journey she’s been on, that still points back to God and His faithfulness, goodness and kindness.

About how some of the deaf community have hated on her: I used to get some pretty strongly worded letters and death threats. I got a lot of backlash from certain people in that community because I was promoting oralism. When you’re doing something that is living inside the hearing world, such as music and singing, it can be frowned upon because we’re supposed to be encouraging ASL (American Sign Language) only.

About Mandy’s stance on failure at the beginning of her journey: I made the mistake of associating my entire identity with one single dream, and when that dream died I very much felt like I died. I became a husk of a person for a while. I honestly was aiming to fail. I just wanted to do the best effort that I could and prove that it was impossible so that we would not talk about this again.

About appearing on American’s Got Talent in 2017: I was very concerned that they would just judge me on a pity vote instead of who I really am as a musician and I want to be viewed as a musician first. I really wanted to change the idea of what is possible and to show that ‘deaf can’ and what better place to do that than on national television? If it hacks off a couple of people, well it’s encouraging a heck of a lot more, so they can just get over it.

About her outlook on life now: It’s an initial fear that you see on their face and they’re like, ‘I’m going to play my part perfect and she can just do whatever she’s going to do. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of a team. My touring band, they’re just brilliant, and all of them are learning ASL, so the wall of communication is breaking. Losing my hearing was always my biggest fear, so what’s the worst that can happen, sing the wrong notes? Who cares, it’s not going to kill you. There have been a couple of times I’ve started the song in the wrong key. We stop the song, we all laugh together, and we start the song again, and we go for it.

I don’t think any of us could ever imagine losing function of a part of your body. Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, we can never ever truly understand everything that Mandy Harvey is going through. Perhaps Nick Vujicic could (the speaker born without any arms or legs!) but healthy people who are functioning and looking like you and me- most definitely wouldn’t. yet that’s not a reason for us to not be in awe of or not be inspired by Mandy’s story and her songs. It just makes us appreciative of our own life, and makes us realise that our problems are nothing compared to what others like Mandy are going through. Hopefully Mandy’s story doesn’t make us pity her- and instead let us hopefully gain more determination to succeed, and more reliance on friends and family around us. Definitely our mindset should be ‘if Mandy can do it, why can’t I?’ (my own mindset included!); and so my challenge to you is to step out of your comfort zone this week. Mandy steps out of her comfort zone every single day, who what’s our excuse not to?

You can read about Mandy’s brief childhood on Wikipedia, as well as other interviews which I will link in full or in part below. I’ll also embed videos as well of interviews and talks that Mandy has done for you all to see what a secure, hopeful and optimistic young woman of God she is. There’s no substitute for the artists actually speaking about their story, so here’s me letting Mandy speak instead of me jabbering on and on for ages and ages. And while this blog is unusual, let me just say that what I have learnt in this brief time of listening to Mandy Harvey speak and sing, exceeds anything and everything else I have learnt from my previous blogs I’ve written and the other artists I’ve listened to. That indeed is a bold claim, but it’s a claim nonetheless that I will firmly stick by. Sure, Mandy doesn’t have many youtube subscribers or Spotify monthly listeners or many facebook fans or twitter followers… yet what she does have as opposed to other mega-pop stars, is a confidence that life is good no matter what. You could feel happy or sad or mad or emotionally a wreck. You could feel worthless or hopeless or frustrated or despondent. The sun still keeps on shining. Life still keeps going. You are still alive. Your heart is still beating. And isn’t that what life is all about? Finding the best moments in a sea of mixed emotions and turmoil? Finding the good in the bad? Making lemonade out of lemons? Finding God’s plan for your life amongst the rubble and ruin of lost dreams, broken relationships, unfulfilled potential and a life that is seemingly not worth living? I believe that it is in our weakest moments when we can see God the most clearly if we are indeed looking for Him- and though I’m not saying that God caused Mandy’s hearing loss, nor am I saying that God allowed it with bad intentions; what I am saying is that sometimes God doesn’t stop the hurt and the pain, not because God doesn’t love us, but because He knows that our reliance and dependence on Him and our growing as a person and the strengthening of our character wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. We may not know His timing or His plans. But as Mandy has shown us in her music and in her resilience, it is possible to trust God even though we may not want to. It is possible to still follow God even when instinct says no. and it is still possible to follow your dreams when the world says ‘no’.

There’s an article that I have stumbled across yesterday or the day before. It speaks about the 8 ways Mandy Harvey is an inspiration to us all. I’ve also sourced the entire 17 page transcript for the hour long interview between Mandy Harvey and No Barriers’ co-founders Erik Weihenmayer and Dave Shurna, and fellow guest Adrian Anantawan (Mandy retweeted this interview a while ago in fact!), where they both speak about their challenges as ‘disabled’ artists and how they’re dealing with COVID-19 and lockdowns/quarantines amidst still trying to make a living (Adrian is a violinist born without a right hand). And while I would like to sit back and speak about Mandy for more and more hours that probably necessary, I reckon a great way to finish this blog (and a unique way) is to put the transcript on this site in full, as well as the article about how Mandy inspires us. The hour-long interview is an audio file too, so you can listen to it here. And while we are listening, and reading along to see how Mandy uses her life as a beacon and a testimony for the power of God, let us marvel again at the strength and sheer willpower of Mandy to succeed, and her faith in Jesus never wavering. Let us each make it our mission to never let hardship kill our dreams and make us lesser people ever again, and let us remember that though some dreams may die, others can still flourish and come to fruition despite hardship and adversity. Well done Mandy, I applaud you for your tenacity, doggedness, and persistence; it truly is remarkable. You are an inspiration, simply because of your cheerful, joyful, and bouncy optimism. And the music thing is just a bonus! So for all of us with big dreams thinking that that mountain is too tall of that valley is too deep… take a look at Mandy Harvey’s life. And then back at ours. And remember that she’s in the wheelbarrow with the man walking over Niagara Falls. So what about us? And now let’s take a step. And another. And another.

8 Ways Mandy Harvey Inspires Us Daily

We know you’ve heard of Mandy Harvey, the pop singer and songwriter most famous for blowing Simon Cowell’s (and all of America’s, really) mind with her sweet, soulful sounds—not to mention her incredible story.

Mandy Harvey lost her hearing after an illness at age 18. Her love for music transcended these dark chapters in her life, and she worked tirelessly to regain her musical ambitions after taking a break when she lost her hearing.  

In 2017, Mandy was a contestant on the 12th season of America’s Got Talent, where she performed original songs during the competition. After her performance, Simon Cowell pushed the golden buzzer giving her a straight shot to the next round of the competition.  

Since being on America’s Got Talent, her fame has kept growing and she has used it to make a difference in other’s lives. From benefit concerts to technology research, Mandy is paving the way for others like her—here are just eight of the many ways that Mandy Harvey keeps us inspired and hopeful.

Kids Music Day is a day to help encourage kids to use their music creativity and show the importance of music education in children. Because Mandy is an ambassador for #KidsMusicDay, her name helps spread awareness for this great cause. 

When a hopeful little girl, Lily, with the same rare disorder as Mandy posted a video to Facebook asking Mandy Harvey to come visit her, she was shocked when her wish came true. In Lily’s video she said “And since I and you – you and me have Ehlers-Danlos, I think you could teach me to be a little braver and I want a playdate.”

This tugged on Mandy’s heart and many others who heard the story. Mandy spent the day with Lily singing, playing ukulele and bonding over their similar, painful experience and helping Lily become a little bit braver.

After attending a No Barriers Summit event and meeting a new, lifelong friend, Nick, Mandy and Nick teamed up to put on a benefit concert in Iowa where all the proceeds went back to serving others. Through this concert, Nick and Mandy helped give back to others with disabilities like theirs through learning what a life with No Barriers is like. 

It was the largest third-party fundraiser in the history of our organization, bringing in more than $20,000. Incredible! We are so grateful!

In an interview with NPR, Stacy Nick said “when you see and hear a performance by Mandy Harvey… the first thing you notice is her voice. Look down at her feet, though, and you might also notice she’s not wearing shoes.” Mandy Harvey states that she does this so that she can feel the vibrations of the music, the drums and the bass.

Hearing the Call puts on benefit concerts that supports people with hearing impairments and helps them regain hope and healing. Mandy has partnered with this organization to put on concerts all over the United States. She has one concert left in Florida in January, get your tickets here! 

Mandy’s latest music video for her new song “Release Me” is outstanding. Throughout part of the music video, as she sings, she is signing along with the words, making it accessible to people of all abilities. This song is about feeling boxed in by what the world and the media tells her she can be. She hopes this song will help others to break out of the imaginary box they’ve been put in.

Download her latest album, Nice to Meet You, here! (You won’t be disappointed!).

Mandy touched many young lives in Leavenworth, WA where she spent a week performing and speaking to students about what her life is like after losing her hearing. She even taught them songs in sign language like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” You can see the impact she had on these kids in this letter one of the students wrote her!

Mandy Harvey entertained guests at a dinner fundraiser, D.A.D, (diabetic alert dogs), for the organization Dylan’s Dogs for Diabetes. This organization is run by Dylan Lancaster, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 5. Shortly after his diagnosis, he got a diabetic alert dog and he believed everyone should have access to that as well, no matter their financial standing. Mandy partnered with Dylan and put on a benefit concert for the guests of this fundraiser in Alabama.

Mandy has advanced the technology field for people with hearing impairments by working with Not Impossible Lab. This is an organization that aims to break barriers and create a change for humanity through technology. She helped test products they made from an “8×8 matrix of actuators to a baseball vest covered in motors” to help them perfect their creations. 

Mandy Harvey has been an inspiration to all of us as she has broken barriers and pushed through obstacles many of us can’t imagine ever facing. Not only has she encouraged many who hear her story, she goes out of her way to give back and serve those around her. Thank you Mandy for inspiring us all with your story of resilience!

Adrian: I think that art and music are the most human things that we can do. It’s an act of resistance to continue to open yourself to grieving, to open yourself to emotions, to reaffirm understanding of who we are at our best. This is almost like a fight that you do, against the virus.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind.

Erik: It’s been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. That unexplored terrain, between those dark places we find ourselves in in the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call no barriers.

Dave: Continuing with our Alchemy series, today we meet Adrian Anantawan and Mandy Harvey, two world class musicians who reflect on the role of music and art in these challenging times.

Dave: Born without a right hand, Adrian is a violinist who has performed at the White House, the opening ceremonies of the Athens and Vancouver Olympic Games, and the United Nations. He’s played for the late Christopher Reeve, Pope John Paul II, and his holiness, the Dalai Lama. He’s joined by Mandy Harvey, who despite losing her hearing at the age of 19, is an award winning singer, songwriter, and motivational speaker, who you may have watched on America’s Got Talent, where she earned the Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell. Enjoy the conversation.

Dave: Welcome to our new weekly No Barriers podcast series, where we will continue to explore this extraordinary moment in our lives with the pandemic taking over the world, while still remaining true to the theme that we’ve always emphasized here, which is what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way, which is a theme that we think the world needs to hear more than ever right now. Special thanks to Prudential and Wells Fargo for their support of this podcast series.

Dave: Well, I’m so excited to have Mandy Harvey and Adrian Anantawan with us today. Erik, we were talking, it sounds like you’ve got a whammy of a question to kick us off, so I’m going to turn it over to you, Erik.

Erik: All right. It’s for both of you, but I’ll start with Adrian. Adrian, tell us what was the best performance, playing in front of the Pope, playing in front of the Dalai Lama, playing in front of the President of the United States, the former Christopher Reeve, or Itzhak Perlman? What was the best, what was the worst? Those are pretty heavy hitting performances.

Adrian: Whammy is a good way to put it, then. I think that all performances have aspects to what make them special, based on just the nature of an audience. I think that I played differently for any one person, just as much as anyone has a conversation with another person. There’s this interaction that influences you as much as you’re trying to influence them.

Adrian: I think that playing for the Dalai Lama was a very special experience. I think just the degree of resonance and peace that I felt, playing music in front of him, was very special. I think it was also special because we just had a very different type of physical contact. With the Pope, I was social distancing myself. He was in a chair, he was quite a few feet away, and I was on a stage. The President, I did the photo opportunity. But, the Dalai Lama it was a very almost intimate experience. I remember he came up to me afterwards, and he put my hands together and then our heads touched, our foreheads touched. It was some type of greeting, and that felt surreal, and also so authentic at the same time. I would say that was perhaps the most special.

Adrian: In terms of the worst, I remember when I was playing for the President, my cell phone rang a couple of times. It was in my suit jacket, at the time. I was waiting for it to stop, thinking that it was somewhere else in the distance. I remember the press, all they took … Instead of me playing, some majestic violin shot, it was me looking at my cell phone and having a moment of humor. It was the worst, and also one of the most funny experiences ever, too.

Adrian: The nice thing about art is that, in the end, if you make a mistake no one dies.

Erik: I bet you 90% of people, maybe, wouldn’t even notice. I know you’re so good that they wouldn’t even notice, they’d just think that you were doing it on purpose.

Adrian: Yeah. I would say it’s probably the same for all of us, in the sense that we know our craft so well, and we’re hyper critical in refining that craft as well, that in the end, we magnify a lot of flaws, for sure.

Erik: All right, now for you, Mandy. What was the best and the worst? Okay, Kennedy Center, AGT, America’s Got Talent, or … and this is a loaded question, the No Barriers Summit?

Mandy:  Oh, [inaudible 00:06:33]. Oh man, they were all very different. The Kennedy Center, I’ve done it-

Erik: You guys are such diplomats.

Mandy:  But, they are!

Erik: They’re all the best.

Mandy:  They are! Honestly, some of the best performances that I’ve had have been with two people, and it was just such an emotional connection.

Mandy:  I don’t know, when I first did the Kennedy Center, there was so much stress, and so much pressure the first time that I went. They’re very stringent upon their time, they will turn the lights and the sound off at exactly 60 minutes. So, you have to make sure that you’re completely done, even with your thank you, after people want you to do an encore or something. There was just a lot of pressure, but it was such a heartwarming group of people. I was in the Millennium Theater, which is not even inside of a theater, when I did my full concert. It’s where people can come and they can sit, but they’re waiting for a main Broadway show, or something like that. Normally, people don’t stay, there’s as fluidity that happens.

Mandy:  They put out all these chairs, and then as we started no one move, so they just kept adding all of these chairs, and all of these chairs. Then, all these people were sitting on the stairs, and sitting on the floor, and no one left. Then at the end, they were just silent for a second before they all erupted, so it was just like, whoa. Something significant happened, that I will always remember.

Mandy:  For AGT, I hardly remember it, I was so freaking sick. I was so, so sick. I had bronchitis when I did try, and I was taking shots of honey right before going on stage, and I was sweating so much because I was trying to fight this illness that I kept having to reapply makeup. Then, when I went on for all of the live shows after the Golden Buzzer moment, I had pneumonia, and I was in and out of the hospital on Hollywood Boulevard. So it was, for me, AGT would be the worst not because of the experience, because the experience was amazing, and there were so many things that I learned about myself, and about the process, and just about people, and my new drive, and how I’m going to attack life. Everything changed. But, I was just fighting to be alive, so I feel like that one was really difficult.

Mandy:  No Barriers is always No Barriers. To me, it’s a part of home, so it’s like playing with family members.

Erik: You mentioned something really interesting which was you’re so nervous, and you’re so sick that it takes you out of the moment, in a way. That fear, that stress, you can barely remember it. At the time, you’re just like, kicking into all the practice, and all the time you spent on stage being a professional.

Erik: Now, and Coronavirus, people are really scared. They’re probably going to look back like that, in a retrospective way on this moment and barely remember it, because people are pretty stressed right now.

Mandy:  I went to the grocery store a couple weeks ago, and I met into this lady, she was a very, very, very quiet, demure, elderly lady sitting in her car, waiting for her granddaughter to shop for her. She had just the smallest crack of the window open, like somebody left their dog in the car. So, I rolled down my window just a crack and I said, “Hey, I hope you’re staying safe.” She rolled down her whole window, she was like, “What?” She just started having this conversation with me, and it was just overwhelming.

Mandy:  She was a kid during World War II, so she had done World War II, she had done the Cold War, she had done all of these major experiences, where it shaped and rocked everybody. Not just the United States, like 911. Or, when I was in Colorado when Columbine happened, it shaped and changed the state. But, it completely changed the world, and how things are done. She was saying, she’s like, “You know what? It’s scary now, but in 10 years we’re just going to be laughing at ourselves.” Like, “Oh, do you remember the time? Oh, look at all the toilet paper I have now.” She was just a breath of fresh air.

Mandy:  But, she was talking about how the community aspect, and the banding together, and expression that happens during the times that are the hardest are the parts that make it memorable. All of the songs, and all of the art, and all of the performers, and the people who are working on the front lines of being nurses, and the people who are at the grocery store, those are people who I feel like, in a lot of cases, when things are going really well, we take for granted. Then, when the world breaks down, we lean on them so hard. Now, I think more people will appreciate the work and the love that’s been continuously there, for such a long time. At least, that’s the hope.

Erik: You guys are both professional performers, so you’re all over the world performing. Do you remember what your last event was like? I remember, I was at this event speaking, and I knew it was my last talk for a long time. I remember, I actually drank a Corona beer and said, “Okay, next six months, or a year is going to be way different.”

Erik: Do you guys remember? Now all your lives are totally different, right? You’re hanging out at home, like the rest of us.

Adrian: Yeah. I was playing a concerto by a female composer from the 19th Century. It was the first time it had been played in America with an orchestra. It was a magical experience to be able to bring another person’s voice who isn’t with us anymore, and providing a perspective about her life. Then, bringing it within the context of where the world is now, I thought that was such a special experience.

Adrian: Now looking about it retrospectively, how special it is, again, not taking things for granted. I think that there is a sense now that as artists, and just as humans, we have this opportunity to really take stock in experiencing things with depth and detail. Like, who are these people who behind the scenes in your life, that you have to shed light on? If you’re an artist, how much can you dig into the smallest details of a musical phrase, and try to be in a continual state of wonder and optimism of how beautiful people can be, how beautiful communities can be when we’re in moments of crisis as well.

Adrian: It’s been just one of those things as an artist and as a person, you can really look back and reflect in a very different way than even just three weeks ago.

Erik: What about you, Mandy, do you remember your last event?

Mandy:  Yeah, it was in Canada, it was in Ottawa. I didn’t know it was my last gig, though. It was weird, because the airports through where we were going were all really empty. We had been watching it on the news, but it hadn’t really gotten to a point where it was super, super bad.

Mandy:  I came home from that gig, and then the next week I had a 48 hour period of time where I lost all of my performances through the unforeseeable future. It was just one email after another email, and it was just a wave of sad for me. I know that a lot of people, when they get into performance, or they get into music, there’s an element of limelight, or an element of self appreciation, or even just recognition of your hard work that you enjoy. For me, my main focus and my drive of performing, and having this be my life has always been for other people, and to be an encouragement to other people.

Mandy:  So, every time I do a concert, or a speaking engagement, or a keynote address, there’s always this really long line of people and I hug every single one of them. I hug every single one of them. They always talk to me, and there’s always these people who they don’t want to say anything, they just come up, and they wrap their arms around you and they just cry. They’re just like, “I just needed you to say what I was feeling,” and they just hug you, and they leave. You just get so excited because you’re giving words to people when they don’t have anything to express themselves, and you’re there for them, and they feel like they’re a part of something. Now, I feel like I’ve abandoned them in some way, because I can’t be there. It’s just like a part of my life just got ripped in half.

Erik: Yeah, that’s well said.

Dave: Yeah Mandy, I think that one of my questions for both you and Adrian is this sense, because you guys are some of the most talented musicians in the world. When I’ve seen you both in person, you have that experience that Mandy just described, it’s this deeply emotional connection that transforms you.

Dave: I’m wondering from the perspective of being a musician now, in your home and not being able to offer that kind of experience, what role can music be playing in our lives right now, to help us through this? How do we look to music as a source of support? Maybe I’ll let you start, Adrian.

Adrian: Yeah. Mandy, I certainly hear the emotion in your voice as you’re talking about this, almost like a sense of grieving.

Mandy:  Yeah.

Adrian: In a way, I think like anything else in life that we lose, it’s a process that has to be acknowledged, and to say that this really sucks in so many different ways, and to be comfortable and vulnerable enough to express that, in order to just figure out again where the next steps might be.

Adrian: Even within any grieving process, I think that a lot of us turn not only to music, but also just art in general. I think that this virus is … I think what’s so challenging about it is it’s so inhuman. It’s a strain of RNA, essentially, that destroys human life, and community, and just the simple act of being able to give a hug to someone. I hear these stories of people who have lost loved ones, and aren’t able to say goodbye to them in close physical contact.

Adrian: I think that art and music are the most human things that we can do. These forms of expression have always been here for us, in terms of how we produce, and how we appreciate it, to make us understand why we are human, essentially. It’s an act of resistance to continue to open yourself to grieving, to open yourself to emotions, to really just expose yourself as much as possible to various art forms in order to reaffirm understanding of who we are at our best. And at the same time, this is almost like a fight that you do against the virus. This is something that, more than ever, is important in our lives. As producers of art, to reaffirm our commitment to deepen our understanding, expression, and the tools that have, as much as possible.

Adrian: For instance, for me it’s like, yeah I can’t perform right now, but I’m probably practicing more than ever, exploring new pieces, because I know that there’s going to be a day when we come back, that we’re going to need to have as focused of a voice as possible. We have to be able to understand how the world will be after it changes, but also just have the tools in place to continue our roles.

Erik: It seems like two frames of thought. There’s the group that says, “Hey, when times are tough, you’ve got to cut art out, and just buckle down and focus on what’s important.” Then Adrian’s saying, “Hey, in times of darkness, art becomes more important.”

Erik: What do you think, for processing our humanness, for maybe even escapism a little bit? What do you think about that?

Mandy:  We live in the reality, we live in the fear, we live in all of the press that’s always consistently dumping all of the negative. We live in the realism, I guess. We need that ability to escape, we need that ability to have our heads less pushed down with so much negativity, and have that positive light, and that hope in those people who rally around you. I think I’m looking forward to a day when we can, yes, express this. I think that the art behind it, and us talking about it is going to be a beautiful way for us to heal, I think music will be therapy, and art will be therapy for a little while.

Mandy:  But when it’s over, I think there has to be an understanding that this can’t be the way that it is forever, it’s just not real. We’ve lost the genuine side, the human nature side of art.

Erik: Adrian, most of us aren’t professional performers and entertainers. Some of us are just using art right now to get through, right? Almost like meditation. People are probably getting sick of me saying this, but I’ve been playing my guitar more than ever. I gave it up 20 years ago, and now I’ve been playing two, three hours a day. It’s hard to come back out into the real world again.

Erik: Have you seen a lot of examples in COVID, of people actually doubling up on their pursuit of art, in one way or another? Not performing for others, but just for their own sanity?

Adrian: Absolutely, yeah. This idea of everyone turning to a creative act in order to find some control over something that feels like things are outside of your control, and I think it’s going to produce a lot of people who reestablish relationships to things that they may not necessarily have had the time to do because of so many other aspects of life getting in the way. I hear all these stories about people going through self improvement projects. I think this idea of continuing to pursue excellence in your own life is never going to change, but I think that people just have had the opportunity even just to walk outside more often, in their own neighborhoods, for instance.

Adrian: I think that there is an aspect of art and creation that is, as you were saying Erik, part as an escape. But, I also think that art is an act of confrontation as well, in a very beautiful way, and a courageous way that says that even if we are afraid, we’re going to choose to do something that we believe in.

Dave: Both of you perform live all over the world. If you imagine you had the opportunity to be up on stage right now, in this critical moment, in a live concert, I’m curious what you would use that moment to share with people?

Mandy:  Honestly, I wouldn’t change what I was doing. I think that new stories would come into play. But, a lot of people through this, and I’ve been talking about it, and I’ve been singing, and I’ve been doing little mini concerts and stuff like that, but my message is the same. People keep asking me the same questions. They’ve said, “Mandy, when you lost your hearing and you were in the biggest mess of your life, what did you do to find hope?” That’s always been the question that most people ask, and that’s as relevant now as it is for anybody.

Mandy:  I think for the first time, people are finally understanding the impact of making those painful steps to get up off the floor, and actually move forward. But also, they’re really starting to understand the benefit, and the power behind having a rope team, and people to encourage you, and push you forward, and people as a part of your life, as a giant community, it changes everything. So, I think just by continuing to say, and continuing to express, and talk about what I’ve always talked about, I just think that more people will understand more.

Mandy:  They understood from a distance, but it’s like saying, “Oh, I understand how you feel because this person passed away,” but until you have somebody who is significant in your life who passed away, you don’t really understand the pain. It’s now we have an opportunity to have a mutual pain that we can hold onto, and take control over, and use as a benefit, as a tool to bring people together. Just the same as when 911 happened in the US, imagine that next day how many people came together, and videos being shared of our firefighters doing what they could do, and celebrate. It was just, we came together as a nation. Now, we have an opportunity to come together as a world.

Dave: How about you, Adrian? Up on stage now, what would your performance interwoven with words be, what would your message be?

Adrian: I just love that, Mandy, the idea of the world, this is global in nature. There’s no border, really, in terms of how this is affecting people. This is something that is grounding us in being human, in a way. I heard the idea of the rope team.

Adrian: I think that if people were to come to a live performance, I would just find a way to demonstrate gratefulness of the role that everyone plays in order to help each other. I think that we give a lot of attention, rightfully so, to our healthcare workers, and I think that everyone has a part to play, in terms of engaging with this. Whether you’re staying at home, of if you’re on the front lines, and to find a way … I don’t know exactly how that would be, just to artistically express that sense of everyone is part of this rope team, everyone is learning to elevate each other, these No Barriers philosophies that resonate more clearly to me than ever.

Adrian: Yeah, just to take stock in how small we are in the world, and yet how important we are at the same time. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and I think that is expressed very much in music, too. I mean, a single note can look insignificant on a piece of paper, but can have the emotional impact and resonance of something that can change a life.

Erik: People have all sorts of different sources for their creativity, things that inspire them, or maybe in dark times. Are you guys writing any music right now? Or, are you finding yourselves being more creative than, maybe, in times past, or does that shut down?

Mandy:  Yes and no. I think it’s so fresh, right at this moment, that there’s been a couple of weeks of just trying to figure out how am I going to pay my mortgage. I’ve been trying to soul search. There’s me, and then my partner who works for a cruise line, so we got hit on both sides. We’re just trying to buckle down, and figure out how we’re going to stay in the game of feeding ourselves, so there was that stress.

Mandy:  In it, I’ve been recording snippets, and parts, and pieces of all of these different emotions, and I’ve been writing them down. I don’t know, Adrian, if this is how you work, I know a lot of people this is how you work, you feel like a dump of stuff is coming. All of this stuff is collecting in my mind, and then probably this weekend, and starting all of next week, it’s just going to start pouring out. So, I will have the benefit of using these emotions, and even the fear, and the happiness, all of it. There’s incredible positivity in everything that’s been happening as well, even though it’s freaking terrifying.

Mandy:  There’s been so much of joy that’s been coming about, and just watching it. I think people are actually working towards their New Year’s resolutions for the first time, which is great. All of this emotions, and all this energy is going to pour out. It’s just been you’re in survival mode, and then when you finally figure out your footing after survival mode finishes, then you’re able to, for lack of a better word, regurgitate everything that just happened.

Erik: What about you, Adrian? That’s great.

Adrian: Yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of virtual projects with friends. It’s just, collectively, therapeutic. It’s like our profession and our therapy at the same time. It’s an interesting mix for professional musicians, at least, because we get that sense of what you’re doing, Erik, like oh I can play my guitar for three hours a day, and find that creation. At the same time, we’re processing this in an artistic way.

Adrian: Then, I’m doing a lot of teaching, as well. For a lot of kids, there’s just such a huge break of what was normal for them, and their reframing that world so quickly. How do we give tools to kids, in order to express that in a way that we can turn to, because we have the skill to learn an instrument, for instance, or to make music. How do we continue that for them, in a virtual environment?

Adrian: I think it just speaks, again, to we’re all in positions where we are partially victimized by this virus, and we are also in places of privilege as well. I think both are amplified, in their own ways. There are just so many different roles that I’m beginning to understand that I encompass, not only as a teacher, an artist, now part-time cook or house cleaner for my house, for instance. How do we transform? Maybe that’s the alchemy part of it. How do we transform these challenges in a way that give us a sense of agency in a very uncertain time?

Erik: Yes.

Dave: Adrian and Mandy, you’re both a part of helping create a program that we do in schools now, and actually, per what you were just saying Adrian, that outreach to kids being an outlet for you. For our listeners who have middle school kids, we’re just releasing now a series of lessons that middle schoolers can do, that you can go online at NoBarriersUSA.org, and get started. It helps us build our social and emotional response to what’s happening right now, using some of these No Barriers principles. I think kids are, certainly, quietly sometimes, or maybe loudly for others, suffering, and dealing with this in different ways. They need an outlet for expressing that.

Erik: Yeah, and that’s just a test, right Dave? We may not have done that if times were perfect and great, right? We’re doing that because we’re trying to step up, because people need it right now. Yeah, we’re evolving as a community and organization as well.

Dave: So true. I’ve got a question for y’all. I know all of our listeners have different musical preferences, but give us a song to listen to, right now. Either something that you guys wrote yourselves, something you’re listening … it doesn’t have to be your own, but give a recommendation. If we could just go and all listen to this podcast, and then go listen to this song, what would you pick?

Mandy:  Adrian, you go first.

Adrian: Sure.

Erik: As Mandy thinks of the answer.

Adrian: Yeah. I’ve seen some incredible recordings online of orchestras that are all using their cell phones, and overlapping their own recordings to come together. A very powerful one I saw early on was the Rotterdam Philharmonic, it’s on YouTube, and they did Ode to Joy together. I just reflect on this is Centennial for Beethoven, and he also dealt with a disability as well in his life. His response to losing his hearing was, first, of course creating the famous Fifth Symphony, the knock of fate on the door. Then, several symphonies later, he’s talking about the universality of human experience, and how we come together and still find a way to express joy. I think it’s just so powerful and resonant to be reminded.

Adrian: There’s so many aspects of different recordings that would be amazing, but this one was particularly hitting on so many different levels, I think.

Erik: Nice. How about you, Mandy?

Mandy:  I don’t know. It’s tough, because I think people draw from so many different things. I think there’s a lot of different songs and stuff out there that’s very, “Oh, we’re going to get through this,” and “Oh, we’re strong.” But, I think for some people, they just want to be pissed right now, and have songs that they can just scream along with. There’s so many angst-y songs out there, which are a lot of fun.

Mandy:  It’s hard for me because, one, I don’t listen to other people. And two, I really have tried so hard to distance myself from social media, because it’s just been so negative. Or, dog videos. So, I’ve been hyper focusing on my own stuff. It’s been funny, I’ve been playing through a lot of different requested songs. One of the songs that popped into my mind because of a request this week was Fleetwood Mac, Landslide. It’s fantastic! But, when you re-listen to it, they’re going through changes, and they don’t really know what’s going to happen but they have to grow, they have to. They don’t really have a choice, and they have to accept themselves, and they have to move forward. There’s been a lot of songs like that, that’s really been impactful for me.

Mandy:  But, I would encourage anybody, think of your favorite album and put that on. Remember why it was your favorite, but also listen to it with the mindset of COVID, and see if it changes its definition. I think that is just a beautiful way to appreciate the artist, but also appreciate the songs that were written.

Erik: I think we should backup, and just, one, answer a fundamental question. Mandy, you’re deaf and you’re talking to us right now on this podcast system. How are you doing that, for everyone? I think it touches on a broader point of this idea of how we’re all using innovation in our lives in a greater degree in this crisis. But, you guys have been adapting, you’re like the masters of adaptation. How are you doing this, how do you perform? You too, Adrian, next.

Mandy:  Well, for the current situation, everything is on a video phone so I can see who’s talking, but I’m also cheating because I’ve got closed captions on my phone so that I can make sure that I’m following along on multiple platforms.

Mandy:  What’s been difficult for me, personally, is that all of these amazing artists are doing live performances, but none of them are captioned, and there’s no sign language to them so there’s no way to really be a part of it. I’ve been making mini concerts of my own music, and songs that people have requested, and personally hand captioning them, and posting them so that there’s some access, even in my own little way. These are the types of moments where it becomes painfully obvious how much we don’t regard people with invisible disabilities.

Mandy:  We’ve taken all of medications off the shelves, and all of these sanitary things, and then we think about the people who have always have compromised immune systems. They need that for their life, to just survive. Then, we complain so much about being stuck inside when this is a norm for a lot of people, this is their every day, and we’re just getting a taste of it. I hope that we can find a little humanity and compassion, through the whole thing, if I’m being honest.

Erik: Yeah, that’s really cool. There’s this person who is an audio describer for the blind, she’s the person who is narrating movies in times when people aren’t speaking, and she jumps in and will describe the visual stuff going on. She’s been hosting these audio described movies over Zoom once a week, and it’s really fun. It reminded me of what you’re talking about, I’ve been tuning in like a drive in movie theater in my living room, listening to these movies live audio described. It’s been really fun.

Erik: I think you’re right, people are stepping up, and I’m glad you’re doing that, Mandy.

Mandy:  We have to, we have to adapt.

Erik: Adrian, what about you?

Adrian: Yeah, I agree completely. I think that adaptation, innovation, they seem, to a certain extent, synonymous. It’s called the novel virus, and I think that, through novel situations, we come up with novel solutions and ways to deal with these things.

Adrian: The best type of adaptations that I can see, in general, have always been there to help another person, not just yourself. Just like the person whose audio describing the movies, or Mandy, who’s giving these extra moats of communication for people to appreciate songs, we’re all doing a part in not only creating a sense of adaptation in the mediums that we’re using, but also continuing to redefine … not redefine, just to affirm what community is. That is this idea of changing, and experimenting, and grappling with failure as much as success, and becoming stronger for that.

Erik: The prosthetic system that you developed, Adrian, was a lot of trial and error. I know you’ve mentioned that you sounded like a screeching cat for a couple years, but I imagine after all that hard earned evolution, now you have this really cool system. Are there a lot of little Adrians out there, that are using your prosthetic system to play the violin, who may be amputees?

Adrian: Absolutely, yeah. I get emails every week, at least, of young musicians who just find me on Google, that’s pretty much it. They email me, and then we have a conversation, I try to connect them to the community members in their own circles that can help. Then, I also do a lot of work with kids with various other types of disabilities, to play music as well. This meeting is a representation of the variation and diversity of what we call disability, in some way.

Erik: Yeah, that’s right. Blind, deaf, amputee, Dave. What’s your deal, there?

Mandy:  His haircut.

Eric: His haircut.

Dave: My haircut is pretty bad right now.

Adrian: I think it’s great.

Mandy:  His haircut was given to him by his children, for those of you who-

Erik: A Mohawk, I understand, right?

Mandy:  It looks like a really bad faux hawk.

Dave: It’s pretty …

Adrian: It’s sharp.

Dave: Yeah, I definitely wear a hat, I wear a hat a lot.

Adrian: I think it’s great.

Adrian: In any case, case in point, I have this program, music inclusion program in Boston, where we have kids who range from vision impairment, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, amputation, the autism spectrum. Try getting them all on Zoom together, to continue an orchestra rehearsals, there are a lot of opportunities for adaptation.

Adrian: If your mission is sound, and you’re doing it for the right reasons, you find a way. That’s my hope.

Erik: Cool.

Mandy:  I just want to repeat one line. Something that Erik said about you, Adrian, is that you said for a few years, you sounded like a wounded cat.

Adrian: Well, that’s what he said.

Mandy:  I just want to repeat that just for the people who are like, “Oh my gosh, I’m failing again, and again, and again.” Sometimes this stuff takes years, years. The end result is amazing.

Adrian: And it’s a lifetime journey.

Mandy:  Yeah.

Dave: Yeah. If you ever get a chance at a No Barriers Summit to take Mandy’s music class, it is an incredible lesson in how much work it takes to be the level of performer that Mandy is. It’s humbling to be a part of that, and to experience how many hours, and hours, and I know Adrian you do this too, it takes to be at the level that you guys perform.

Dave: I understand that maybe if we’re lucky, you guys might be willing to give us a little music today, is that right?

Adrian: Oh, today? I have my violin here, for sure.

Erik: So you buy a little time, Mandy-

Adrian: I’d be happy to …

Erik: Building on what Dave said, I know that you also spend a tremendous amount of time, when you’re writing music and stuff like that, just to get in the right key because you can’t hear the right key. So, you’ve got to know that your throat, that your vocal chords are making the right sounds, right? I know that takes an infinite of time, buckling down.

Mandy:  It does. I think that there are so many barriers that are out there. People who say that anything is possible, sure … “I don’t necessarily believe that barriers are real,” you’re going to smack into them, that’s for sure. For sure and for certain. The difference is, are you willing to take the time to chop your way through it, and break it down tiny little piece, tiny little piece, before you’re successful with what you’re trying to do. I think for a lot of people they are so afraid to fail in the first place that they don’t even put in the effort to try.

Mandy:  The amazing thing about the people who are on this podcast, but also the people who go for it, is that even if there are years of not being where you want to be, you still have the same drive, and the same commitment to getting there. Then, once you get there … I don’t know if this is the same for you, Adrian, I probably assume it is. Once you get to where you think you should have been, it’s not enough, and you’ve got to keep going until you reach a new level that you didn’t even know about when you first started the journey.

Erik: Wait a second, this sounds like a song.

Adrian: Yeah. Yeah, there’s an insatiability to the process of excellence. It’s humbling, like Mandy was saying, and it’s not pretty all the time. It’s annoying to say, “Oh, I can’t hit that note.” Or, “Man, that sounds screechy today.” The philosophy of excellence is never about when I goes right, it’s really when it goes wrong and how you respond to that.

Adrian: Are we going to try to do something?

Mandy:  Go for it! B Flat?

Adrian: Do you want to do It’s a Wonderful World? Do you want to start in … I saw a recording of you doing it C Major, you were doing it with a jazz band.

Mandy:  I normally do it in C Major, I’m happy to do it in B Flat.

Adrian: Let’s do C Major, sounds great.

Adrian: Okay, we’ll just have to go one after another. This is one big experiment, by the way.

Erik: I love this, this is my favorite.

Mandy:  Do you want to do an eight bar lead in, before I come in?

Adrian: Sounds good. Then, after that … I don’t think we can probably play on top of each other, just because there might be some delay, but we can definitely respond to each other, for sure.

Adrian: Okay, let’s just try something.

Mandy:  Let’s just try, we’ll see. Trial, failure is inevitable, but let’s go for it.

Adrian: All right.

Mandy:  We might be able to.

Adrian: Okay. Let’s see, I’ll give an eight bar. One, two, three, four.

Mandy:  (singing)

Erik: Yeah! Woo!

Mandy:  Yeah.

Adrian: Fun!

Dave: That was so amazing, thank you guys. What fun, what a great ad-lib there to just bring it together.

Erik: That might have been the coolest thing I’ve heard on this podcast.

Dave: Yeah, no kidding. By far, by far.

Erik: Way better than your haircut, Dave.

Mandy:  I hope that one day soon that we get to do that, for real, in real life some time.

Adrian: Absolutely.

Dave: That would be so nice, that would be so nice.

Dave: Well, thank you guys so much, for making this work, and for joining the podcast, and for being a part of No Barriers for many years, now. For those of you listening, you can check our show notes to find out more about Mandy and Adrian, and where to find their music, how to get involved with their work, in our show notes section of NoBarriersPodcast.com.

Dave: Thank you guys so much for joining us.

Erik: Awesome.

Mandy:  Thank you.

Adrian: A pleasure.

Erik: Thanks, guys.

Adrian: Thank you.

Mandy:  I love you!

Erik: Love you, too.

Dave: Erik, that was amazing. Like you said, probably one of the best moments we’ve had on this podcast ever, when those two were playing. What stuck with you from that conversation?

Erik: I don’t know, Adrian was just talking about how excellence isn’t about the perfect success, it’s about adaptation. They totally demonstrate that, with this cool song. I think that, for me, is what I took away among so many other things, this idea of adaptation. These guys are masters of adaptation, they live their life adapting, trying to figure out how to bring forth their art. So, this is a great time for us all to think about adaptation, right? Kids right now are doing school online, and they have a lot less structured time, they’re not, maybe, going to sports’ practice.

Erik: This is a great time to take up an art project, or really start learning something new, and adapting to something new. In a way, we want to come out of this stronger, and that would be a great way to use our time. And, as Adrian said, very therapeutic as well.

Dave: Yeah. I think for me, just listening to the personal stories of how much this is impacting the careers of Adrian and Mandy at this point in their lives, with all the cancellations, it’s that very real and palpable sense of we’re all deeply impacted by this, and it is okay if what we’re trying to do is just keep it all together right now, and to accept the breadth of how we all might be responding. Whether this is a time of creativity and innovation for you, or it’s as time of grief, and trying to just get through it, that spectrum is all okay. Music and art actually can speak to you, no matter where you are on that spectrum. If you’re in that dark place, or if you’re in that I’m going to make the most of this place, music and art play a role for us in that space.

Erik: Mandy also mentioned that yeah, you freak out, you go through this survival mode. Then you start, and I love this word she used, she talked about, “and then you regurgitate it all back out.” That’s art, right? I bet you amazing art, music, and sculpture, and painting, I bet it’s going to be an amazing growth from this crisis, I bet amazing stuff’s going to come out of it.

Dave: Well, thank you Erik, thanks to our guests, it was another great conversation. We encourage our listeners, if you enjoyed the conversation, to share it with someone else, and build our No Barriers podcast community. We thank our sponsors, Prudential and Wells Fargo. And as always, you can find show notes and our tips from this conversation, a one page piece of paper that you can pull away with you and say, “How might I apply what I learned today to my own life, right now?” You can download those tips at NoBarriersPodcast.com in the show notes.

Dave: Thanks so much for listening today.

Erik: Thanks everyone. No Barriers!

Dave: The production team behind this podcast includes Senior Producer, Pauline Schaffer, Executive Producer, Didrik Jonhnk, sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman, graphics by Sam Davis, and marketing support by Megan Lee and Karly Sandsmark. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you, for listening.

Dave: We know that you’ve got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at NoBarriersPodcast.com.

Does Mandy Harvey make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “Try”, “This Time”, “Release Me”, “One Minute”, and “Waiting” that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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