Here, My Voice 3. An Experience Never to Forget!
by Rizwana Jmari
The power of voice and self-expression took center stage Sunday, October 15, when the Hearing Loss Association of America Los Angeles Chapter (HLAA-LA) partnered with the University of Southern California for an uplifting concert event, as part of Juri Hwang’s research which combines sound art, art intervention, and neuroscience of hearing through trans-disciplinary work between Media Arts + Practice and the Keck School of Medicine’s Bionic Ear Lab.
Held at 2 p.m. in Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall on USC’s campus, the Here, My Voice 3 event featured musical performances by seven hard-of-hearing participants in the Here, My Voice project.
The project is an empowering collaboration between USC’s Thornton School of Music, Kaufman School of Dance, School of Cinematic Arts, Keck School of Medicine, and HLAA-LA. Participants worked one-on-one with vocal coaches for three months to build confidence and creative expression through customized voice lessons and movement exercises.
“The performers were amazing, and their song choices so impactful,” said HLAA-LA President Wendi Washington. Among the performers was HLAA-LA Steering Committee member Sandy Blake, who has asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss. She performed a powerful rendition of the Stephen Sondheim song “Anyone Can Whistle.” Blake has been involved in developing the Here, My Voice project to help hard-of-hearing individuals like herself rediscover the joy of music and the creative potential of their voices.
Other performers included Patti Wong (“Both Sides Now”), Deborah Goldmann (“My Favorite Things”), Maggie Whittemore (“Angel”), Audrey Hampton (“Jamaica Farewell”), Jackie Guzman (“A Part of Your World”) and Keiko Kamiya (“Speechless”).
The concert held special meaning for hearing loss community members in attendance. Cammileri Hall’s state-of-the-art audio systems include hearing loop technology, which allows guests with cochlear implants or hearing aids equipped with T-coils to access the music and performances in an enhanced way.
“Thanks to the hall’s hearing loops, I heard the songs with more clarity and richness than ever before,” said one of the guests using a hearing aid with T-coil.
Rizwana Jmari, HLAA-LA Steering Committee member and parent of an HoH/nonverbal child, was moved to tears by Kamiya’s powerful “Speechless” performance. She shared how inspired and hopeful she felt seeing the performers’ confidence, knowing her nonverbal child could also discover the joy of music and creative expression.
The event closed with a heartwarming finale, as previous Here, My Voice participants – Reid, Lisa, and Wendi joined the group on stage for a performance of “I am Light.” The entire auditorium then joined voices to sing the uplifting lyrics in a poignant moment of solidarity, community, and joyful self-expression.
“It was the perfect conclusion to this inspiring performance and a fond farewell to this empowering project. Congratulations to the hearing loss community for raising their voices! And many thanks to Visions and Voices,” Washington said.
The Here, My Voice project and last Sunday’s concert exemplified HLAA-LA’s mission to advocate, educate, and support those with hearing loss and promote awareness in the greater Los Angeles area.