February 14, 2023 : By Ryan Klinker - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
In the months since she surprised the judges and audience of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with her abilities as a gifted singer-songwriter who has overcome a speech impediment, Liberty University sophomore Amanda Mammana has continued to be an example of how God can use what we perceive as weaknesses for His glory.
Mammana has a stutter, but like many people like her, the stutter isn’t apparent when she sings, as singing involves a different section of the brain. She was drawn to music as a helpful means of communicating her thoughts and feelings.
Last April, after flying from her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., to her audition in Pasadena, Calif., Mammana sat backstage as the realization hit her of what was about to happen.
“I did some interviews and B-roll for the show, and the whole time I was realizing, ‘This is really happening. I’m here,’” she recalled. “When I was backstage, I could hear the audience, I could hear (host) Terry Crews talking, and then I walked out on the stage and saw the four judges there. It felt crazy.”
With her guitar hanging on her shoulder and her father watching backstage, Mammana answered the judges’ questions with her natural pauses and speech disfluencies. But that all went away when she began to perform her original song, “Back to Life.” By the end, every person in the room was on their feet cheering, a moment that Mammana said confirmed to her that her stutter should not hold her back.
“For so long, because of my speech, I always felt ashamed and like I could never be anything or do anything,” Mammana said. “When I finished and they all stood up, it made me realize that my speech doesn’t have to be a handicap if I don’t let it. My whole perspective of myself and on God changed. I used to shake my fist at God because He was allowing me to have this speech impediment, but (being on the show) opened my eyes and allowed me to see that He has allowed it for good reasons.”
Her audition for the show has been seen by over 7 million people on YouTube and countless others on other platforms. She reached the semifinals, which aired in August, and made it to the top five of her episode before being eliminated.
Mammana enrolled at Liberty in the fall semester of 2021 and switched to online classes in the Spring 2022 leading up to her audition. She took the Fall 2022 semester off from Liberty to open herself up to opportunities after the show and spent the rest of 2022 performing at a variety of venues. Just a few days after her time on the show ended, Mammana performed in her home state at CityFest, a Christian music festival, on the same lineup as Liberty graduate TobyMac. along with Lecrae, We Are Messengers, and others. She later performed at halftime of the Miami Dolphins game on Oct. 16 and during a FOX News broadcast in December. She has also released multiple singles and an instrumental EP available on all major music streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.
Most recently, Mammana spent a weekend opening for Christian artist Jason Gray — a stutterer himself — and plans to perform at two festivals with him this summer.
Mammana has received countless messages from people online who have speech impediments and saw her on the show, and she was invited to perform at the National Stuttering Association’s conference this summer.
Her speech impediment and passion for music both developed at the age of 10. After performing in a school talent show and later receiving positive feedback when she posted a video of her playing an original song on social media, Mammana said she started seeing music as a potential career.
“I signed up for my school’s talent show to sing, and up on the stage I felt so free,” she said. “When I saw the people saying they liked my video, I thought that maybe it could be something I could do for a career, and I also thought I could encourage people with my music.”
This led Mammana to eventually choose to study music and, after hearing from friends about the high caliber of Liberty’s School of Music programs, enroll at Liberty in the B.M. in Commercial Music – Recording, Engineering, and Producing program.
“I can only say that it was God that brought me here, because I wasn’t crazy about going to college initially, but I felt like He (was leading me here),” she said.
When she’s not on Liberty’s campus, Mammana has had a variety of opportunities to perform her music and work on an album that she plans to release at the start of next year.
Since “America’s Got Talent,” Mammana said she has learned to trust in God’s plan for her life and career.
“I’m someone that likes to try and control the future, but it never works out when we try to do things on our own,” she said. “I think being on (the show) helped me learn to let things go and to surrender them to the Lord, and having that time to myself helped me to trust God more. I had to lean on Him and know that He is in control.”