Throughout history, we have seen artists and musicians overcome obstacles to create incredible and inspiring cultural work. One prime example is Ludwig van Beethoven, who famously chopped off the legs of his piano and composed music based on the vibrations he felt on this floor.
In our modern times, musician and composer Alex Lacamoire has overcome his own hearing loss to create music to one of Broadway’s most popular musicals, Hamilton, garnering several Tony Awards.
Childhood Hearing Loss in a Budding Musical Talent
Alex Lacamoire, 41, is the child of Cuban immigrants, was born in California, and grew up in Miami. At a young age, Lacamoire saw his father affected by an aneurysm which left him paralyzed on his right side. Maria Lacamoire, Alex’s mother, became the primary caregiver for the family.
She noticed that young Alex sat very closely to the TV, with the volume turned up high. Lacamoire did not respond to his mother when she raised her voice to get his attention, and had a close call when running into traffic. Worried, Maria took Lacamoire to a psychologist. After a series of tests, it was revealed that Alex Lacamoire had at least 15% hearing loss.
Growing up, Lacamoire loved music. At a very young age, his parents bought him a toy piano, and he later began to take piano lessons. The Lacamoire family scraped together money to buy an old Baldwin piano, on which he practiced. With his hearing loss, Lacamoire was prescribed hearing aids, but the family was unable to afford two. Lacamoire wore one hearing aid, which he says made him feel uncomfortable during his high school years because he wanted to “fit in.”
Hearing Loss and Music: A Symbiotic Relationship
Despite his hesitation to wear his hearing aids regularly, Lacamoire credits his hearing loss as instrumental to his connection to music. “I often wonder if my handicap is actually an asset,” says Lacamoire.
“I often wonder if my handicap is actually an asset … My hearing loss makes me listen a little harder. It allows me to live in my own bubble. I can really focus in on music and tune out the world around me.”
Lacamoire’s mother, Maria, worked many odd jobs to pay for his music lessons. By age 8, Lacamoire was showing musical talent, reading sheet music and playing well enough to garner him a spot at Southwood Middle School’s music magnet program. According to Judie Berger, Lacamoire’s piano teacher at Southwood, “When a talent like that just tumbles into your arms, it’s a piece of luck. He was absolutely phenomenal from day one. You know the ones that have it. When you’ve seen and taught thousands of kids, the great ones rise to the top.”
Transition into a Professional Music Career
In his teen years, Lacamoire took odd jobs playing music at hotels and other venues to make money. By age 13, Lacamoire had played a recital at the University of Yucatan in Mexico. After this experience, Lacamoire decided to dedicate his life to music. Lacamoire’s musical talent, lauded by his teachers and peers, secured him a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
After his time at Berklee, Lacamoire moved to New York City where a chance encounter led him to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda. The rest is, as they say, history.
In the Heights to Hamilton
Lacamoire and Miranda became musical collaborators, beginning with Lacamoire playing keyboards for In the Heights, a musical written by Miranda. Together, Lacamoire and Miranda created an innovative blend of rap and Latin melodies. In the Heights garnered national attention, and landed the two a performance at the White House. This performance inspired their next project, Hamilton.
Hamilton revolves around the first US Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, an orphaned immigrant. The music for Hamilton is a creative combination of Brit-op, hip-hop, and Broadway musical. The show has since been nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony Awards. Musical director Tommy Kail says, “I don’t even know how to imagine the show would be without him. There’s so much of Alex’s spirit and heart in the show. He’s part of the DNA of the show. It is full and complete because of him.”
Alex Lacamoire is an inspiration to creatives with hearing loss. “For me, music involves all the senses,” he says. “It’s about overcoming a disability to the point where you don’t feel it’s a disability anymore.”
Don’t let hearing loss stand in the way of your passions! Contact us at Gulf Gate Hearing today for a hearing test and hearing aid fitting.