America’s Got Talent — MEETING TOPIC

Amanda Mammana performing on America’s Got Talent

SITUATION

Amanda Mammana is a 19-year-old singer songwriter from Trumball, CT. She appeared on the July 19th episode of America’s Got Talent (AGT) and sang an original song. Her performance captivated the audience and the AGT judges. Amanda was chosen to continue in the competition.

Besides being an amazing singer songwriter, Amanda stutters. Before she performed on the AGT stage, Amanda stuttered when telling the audience and the judges her name. The entire auditorium was silent as Amanda paused, blocked, and looked away as she spoke on stage. She shared, “As you can probably tell, I have a bit of a speech impediment. It was definitely something that caused me to shy away and hide but I found that I don’t stutter when I sing.”

How the audience reacts to Amanda’s talent is noteworthy. How AGT tells Amanda’s story on-screen is noteworthy. And how Amanda reacts to the reception she received is also noteworthy.


PURPOSE

This meeting topic will spark conversations about how the public views the capabilities of people who stutter. It will also get people to think about the self-stigmas people who stutter impose on themselves.


ACTIVITIES

NOTE: You will need to solve for how to share the following online videos with meeting attendees either in-person or online. There are also printouts to share with meeting attendees.

Watch the following performance of Amanda Mammana on AGT.

After watching, use the following questions as conversation prompts:

1. How does the audience react to Amanda’s stuttering?

2. Why do jaws drop and eyes sparkle with amazement hearing Amanda sing?

3. Is it truly “incredible” that Amanda sings so beautifully, and her lyrics are so heartfelt?

4. Discuss the emotions Amanda expresses with her body language when hearing the applause of the audience.

5. How can you relate to this statement Amanda shared? “There were times when I was a kid that I could never do anything like this. I’m not good enough.”


Listen to the following studio recording of BACK TO LIFE, the song Amanda sang on AGT.

(Print the lyric sheet to BACK TO LIFE and give copies to meeting attendees to read when listening.)

After listening, use the following questions as conversation prompts:

1. Ask attendees if any lyrics speak to them personally and how.

2. Read this lyric aloud and learn how it resonates with attendees: “I still remember that kid wanting to be more. But now she knows that she’s worth more than what she’s been told.”


Read and discuss a provocative article about Amanda, stuttering and AGT.

Courtney (Luckman) Margulis is a well-known NSAer and she wrote a provocative article sharing how she “felt used, abused, misunderstood, and pitied” when watching Amanda on AGT. In the article, Courtney details four reasons why she believes the portrayal of Amanda furthers the public/media stigma of stuttering and how the many microaggressions on display do unjust harm to people who stutter.

NOTE: The entire article is a must read. However, for the sake of time during a chapter meeting, I edited Courtney’s article to share only two reasons.

Print this shortened version of Courtney’s article and give copies to meeting attendees.

1. Ask an attendee to read the first page of the shortened article.

2. Discuss how attendees feel about the title of video being, “Singer with Speech Impediment Moves Judges to Tears.”

3. Ask an attendee (or two attendees) to read aloud page two of the handout.

4. Discuss the concept of microaggressions and how well-meaning compliments can be viewed as inconsiderate actions.


To close the meeting, listen to another original song from Amanda Mammana, PROVE YOU WRONG.

(Have attendees follow along to the song with the lyrics printed on page two of the earlier shared handout.)

After listening, use the following questions as conversation prompts:

1. Ask attendees if any lyrics speak to them personally and how.

2. Read this lyric aloud and learn how it resonates with attendees: “There are times I don’t believe in me. But then I look at how far I’ve come. I’m one step closer to who I’ve always been.”