Dialogue November – December 2009
Blind American Idol Finalist Scott MacIntyre Shares Special Moments
By David Block Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Twenty-four-year-old Scott MacIntyre of Scottsdale, Arizona made history this year by being the first blind contestant on “American Idol.” He finished season 8 of the show in eighth place. “I’m so glad that I got to share my talent with America, and I’m very humbled that they supported me,” said MacIntyre.
To say that MacIntyre is talented would be an understatement. Music had been an essential part of his life since he was 3. “My parents could tell that I had an interest in music at an early age,” said MacIntyre. “We had an old piano with ivory keys. It was ancient. I’d sneak out of bed at night. My parents would try to put me to bed with tapes to listen to of Disney music. I’d go out to the piano and try to figure out the melodies I was hearing and play them. They’d put me back to bed and I’d sneak out again.”
MacIntyre was born with 2 degrees of tunnel vision out of 180 degrees, which he describes as a tiny pinhole of vision. “It’s like looking through a coffee straw,” said MacIntyre. Doctors have failed to diagnose his condition, yet it never worsened or improved. MacIntyre said that his blindness helped draw him into the world of sound and music. “I was forced, in a good way, to explore and hone my skills in other areas” – especially listening and memorizing.” MacIntyre learned to play the piano completely by ear. He did not learn Braille music because he did not have a certified Braille music teacher when he was young.
He obtained his Masters Degree in classical music at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal College of Music. He said that his professors gave him tapes of classical music to listen to, and he trained his ears to pick out each individual note and all the patterns within the larger texture. “It can get very complicated. But because I’ve done that, note for note with classical music, I’m able to do it almost instantly with pop music. If I hear something on the radio, I can play along as I’m hearing it. I’ve gotten on stage with bands without hearing their music before. After hearing something once, I can reproduce it,” he said.
In addition to being a classical pianist, MacIntyre is also a seasoned vocalist. When he auditioned for American Idol in July 2008 at the Jobbing.com Arena in Arizona, he had already released six albums – some classical, some original pop songs he wrote. “When I auditioned, I never assumed that I would make it to the end stage of the competition. I never took it for granted that I would make it anywhere. I had a feeling that if I could get through Hollywood Week and play and sing in front of the judges, I’d have a good chance of sticking around for a little bit. And fortunately, that’s what happened. I’m humbled that people have been inspired and taken something away from my time on Idol and more importantly from my experience of life,” MacIntyre said.
During the show and later on the “American Idol” tour, the media often referred to him as the “blind singer on ‘American Idol’,” instead of by name. “It takes a lot to offend me,” said MacIntyre when asked about this. “I never had an issue with letting people into my world. I’m about breaking barriers; breaking paradigms. The more I can bridge the gap between my life and the people around me, the more they feel comfortable.”
“American Idol” host, Ryan Seacrest tried to high-five him, and MacIntyre had no objection: “It’s nice when people forget for a moment that I’m blind. My blindness is just another characteristic of my being. My hair is light, my eyes are blue and I happen to be blind.”
One of the high points on the “American Idol Live” tour was performing at the Jobbing.com Arena where he auditioned the previous year: “I was one person out of the 25,000 who auditioned there,” said MacIntyre. “We were all just dreaming about being on the other end of the whole process; and to actually go back there to perform in the same space was amazing.”
After the “American Idol Live” tour, MacIntyre plans to release another album and thanks to “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul, obtain a guide dog. “I had thought about getting a dog for several years.” He said that Paula Abdul thought that getting a dog was such a good idea that she convinced the Guide Dogs of America to bypass the waiting period for him.
Asked about Simon Cowell, the most critical judge on “American Idol,” MacIntyre said: “My favorite Simon Cowell moment from the show was when he said, ‘It’s alright to be artistic, just not on this show.’ After that I tried to be as artistic as I possibly could every week. It’s ironic, people talk about artistry on the show. It’s really what it’s about. It’s a funny example of the contradictory remarks.”
To learn more about Scott MacIntyre, visit www.scottmacIntyre.com