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Touching Hearts with Music: An Interview with Scott MacIntyre

February 13–17, 2017   |   Vol. 129, Week 13
Previously aired:   February 1–5, 2016   |   Vol. 126, Programs 1–5

Ever since he was a little boy, homeschool graduate Scott MacIntyre has dreamed of touching people’s hearts with his music. How did Scott turn that dream into a reality, despite being blind from birth? Find out on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

“Homeschooling really gave me a confidence and allowed me to carry myself in a way that I can convey my message to a wide audience.”—Scott MacIntyre

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Ever since he was a little boy, homeschool graduate Scott MacIntyre has dreamed of touching people’s hearts with his music. How did Scott turn that dream into a reality—despite being blind since birth? Find out on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: My guest today is Scott MacIntyre. He’s a homeschool graduate and a professional musician who has been blind since birth. Scott, welcome to our program!

Scott MacIntyre: Thanks so much for having me.

He had a dream [0:28]

Mike: Well Scott, let’s start at the beginning. Why did your parents decide to homeschool you?

Scott: It came time to put me in school and the school system said, “You know, we should really hold Scott back a year because he’s blind.” And my parents had never done this before, so they went along with it and thought, “Okay.” But in the meantime, they started teaching me a little bit here and there at home, and it actually worked out so well that I ended up being homeschooled all the way through high school.

Mike: So what was homeschooling like for you?

Scott: It was very fun. I had a good time homeschooling. You know, sometimes I would do my work at the kitchen table, sometimes I would do it at the desk. We got to take some field trips locally or elsewhere because we had that flexibility. So it was really a good experience.

Mike: Along the process, when did you know you wanted to be a musician?

Scott: You know, I remember being just several years old and dreaming about what it would be like to perform music to an arena full of people. And it wasn’t because I wanted to be the center of attention or anything like that. There was something so appealing to me about making music and people responding to my music, and me responding to them. And that dream, I really believe, is what guided me along the path of learning how to do that, and how to get to that place. I never knew if it would just be a hobby, or if it would someday be my career, but today I have performed for arenas, I’ve gotten to do some amazing concerts, and I’m so thankful for that.

Mike: So what’s the largest audience you’ve actually sung to?

Scott: In person, probably fifteen thousand. 

Mike: Fifteen . . . wow. Where was that? That’s cool, man. Where was that?

Scott: It was . . . I don’t remember, actually, because I did several of them. But it had to have been on the American Idol tour, because we did a lot of—a lot of crowds were ten thousand, I think, one was fifteen thousand, a lot were seven to eight thousand, you know. But that was back when Idol was at its peak. 

On-the-job schooling [2:25]

Mike: Scott, you recorded your first CD when you were 11. How did you balance your musical career with your homeschooling education?

Scott: That’s a great question. You know, I think for me, fortunately my music career really became a part of my homeschool education. You mentioned that I did my first CD at 11 years old—that’s correct. And for me it was really an opportunity to learn about, “What is the recording studio? What is some of the equipment that might be inside of a recording studio, and how does it work? And then what is manufacturing? How does a CD actually get manufactured, and then what do sales mean?” You know, that was actually, probably my first experience actually selling something. I took my CD, once I was done, and I actually walked door-to-door to the neighbors all through the neighborhood with my brother, and we tried to sell the CD. And we had a lot of success doing that.

Mike: Well Scott, you’re now a professional musician. Did homeschooling help you in any way, or prepare you for that?

Scott: It really did. You know, one of the best things about homeschooling, in my experience—I know it’s different for everybody—but it really teaches you to interact with many different people from different age groups, from different walks of life, different backgrounds. I think sometimes, in a traditional school setting, the student is around people that are the same age, and maybe within a year or so of that student. And you don’t have an opportunity as early on—you’re not forced to interact with other age groups and treat them as equals. But that’s how the world works.

And whenever I’m doing a concert, or doing a keynote speech (I do a lot of speaking), I’m connecting with people of all different age groups—from 10 years old all the way up to 90 years old. And homeschooling really gave me a confidence and allowed me to carry myself in a way that I can convey my message to a wide audience. 

Mike: Did you have siblings, as you were growing up, that were homeschooled as well?

Scott: I did. I have a brother who is three years younger, and then a sister who is three years younger than him.

Mike: Okay, so you were the oldest of the three. So they got a chance to experiment on you.

Scott: Yes, exactly!

If at first you don’t succeed . . . [4:38]

Mike: Scott, tell us about your experience competing in American Idol. How did you get on the show, to begin with?

Scott: Well, I talk about this in more detail in my book, By Faith, Not by Sight. But here’s the deal: Sometimes you don’t want to give up after the first try—you’ve got to try again. I originally auditioned with my brother and my sister in San Francisco. And we were all three turned down. We were sent home by the first producers that heard us. And fortunately, though, we went back in Phoenix, Arizona, just a couple of months later the same year. And all three of us made it through. And then I kept making it through again and again, and round after round, and ended up in the final round. So I was so grateful that I didn’t give up after the first try.

Mike: Well tell us, what was the best part of being on American Idol

Scott: The best part, for me, was really seeing how my story and my music touched people around the world—how it inspired the millions of viewers. You know, I remember one week I sang a Michael Jackson song called “Keep the Faith.” And I received a letter, after singing that song, from a guy that said he went back to church after hearing me sing that song. And I thought to myself, “I never knew a Michael Jackson song could do that.” But it did! And I was so grateful for so many stories like that—just how God was using my music to encourage people and inspire them.

Mike: Well Scott, I guess we could say that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Scott: Absolutely.

Mike: That’s the answer to that question you’ve got.

By faith, not by sight [6:11]

Mike: Well, you’d already recorded several albums before you were on American Idol. Did being on American Idol actually help you professionally after that?

Scott: Absolutely. The difference before and after American Idol was that before, I was dreaming about a career in music. I did have a career in music; I performed a lot. But I was not making a living at it. And after American Idol, it opened up so many doors that now, I get to wake up every morning and do what I love and support a family, and get to inspire people in the process. So I’m so grateful for the gift that American Idol was to me.

Mike: Scott, back in 2012 you published a book called By Faith, Not by Sight. Tell us about that, and what is the book about, and why did you write it?

Scott: Great question. You know, I’ve been through a lot of difficult circumstances in my life. I’ve been blind from birth. I’ve gone through kidney failure twice—in fact I just had my second successful kidney transplant. The kidney was actually given by an anonymous donor. And I was so touched by that, that someone I didn’t even know—and by the way, who didn’t even know about me from American Idol, just heard my story on the radio, heard that I had this need—she gave her kidney to me. So incredible. 

But, you know, the title of the book is really perfect—By Faith, Not by Sight—because that has been my life all of these years. As a blind person, I’ve had to walk by faith, not by sight, every day of my life. I’ve had to trust people much more deeply than I would have otherwise. And I’ve had to trust God in some very difficult circumstances, when I had to give up control and trust God’s plan for my life. And so the takeaway of the book is, I want people to really believe and learn from my story that no matter what you’re going through, no matter what hurt is in your life, no matter what challenge is in your life, or what obstacle—you can overcome it, if you let go of control and decide to walk by faith, not by sight.

Mike: Well, Scott, what’s the easiest way, or best way for our listeners to get your book?

Scott: You can get it on Amazon, I think it’s on Lifeway, too, in a lot of Lifeway stores. But yeah, go to Amazon or any book website—it should be there. 

Sharing a gift [8:27]

Mike: Scott, becoming a professional musician is no easy task, and you’ve had to work harder than most to achieve this dream. How did you do it?

Scott: You know, I think for me it started by having a dream, and having that dream of the end goal. I mentioned earlier in the week that I dreamed about performing and doing what I do now since I was a little kid. And when I did that—when I had that dream—I had no idea how to get there. I didn’t know the first thing about how to play the piano. I didn’t know the first thing about how to look cool on stage, or how to write songs. But that vision of what my future could be, and what I believed I could do if given the opportunity, helped guide me on the path to get there.

And once I started setting my sights on doing something like becoming a professional musician, becoming a recording artist, then I started to notice opportunities that were passing me by, and I could grab a hold of those opportunities. You know, sometimes when you are trying to buy a house, you don’t notice how many “for sale” signs there are in your neighborhood until you’re buying a house—because you’re looking for it. So, I think, sometimes the first step is setting the goal and deciding, “What am I trying to achieve?” And then you figure out each day just how to take one more step to go towards that goal. 

Mike: Do you have any additional advice you would give to our folks out there that are listening today, that are aspiring to be a musician?

Scott: You know, the best thing you can do is take any opportunity to perform your music in front of people—whether it’s your family, your friends, or at a talent show, at your school, at your church. Just get as comfortable as you can with performing in front of people and being vulnerable in front of people, because it is a very vulnerable experience. And take any opportunity, because it’s a gift you’ve been given, whether it’s something you do professionally or just a as a hobby for the rest of your life. That is a gift, and it’s meant to be shared with others. And that’s something that I’ve learned over the years.

Mike: Well Scott, thanks so much for joining us this week. It’s been a privilege to be able to talk to you, and truly a pleasure. And I know our listeners have enjoyed it as well. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Scott MacIntyrePhoto of Scott

Scott MacIntyre has come a long way. From his early days as a classical concert pianist to capturing the hearts of millions of American Idol viewers with his engaging presence and vocal prowess, he has never let challenges keep him from achieving his dreams. Having performed with such notable acts as The Band Perry, Alice Cooper, and the Jonas Brothers, he has traveled the globe inspiring audiences with his music and story.

As an author and in-demand keynote speaker, MacIntyre has shared his story with corporations, health care and education institutions, and non-profits across North America and beyond. In his autobiographical book By Faith, Not by Sight he writes about how he learned to face his fears, even in the midst of incredible adversity. The book was recently translated and re-published in Indonesian.

The consummate prodigy, MacIntyre’s musical talent is rivaled by his equally impressive academic resume. At fourteen, he was admitted into Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College and Herberger College of Fine Arts.  In 2005, he received the coveted Marshall and UK Fulbright scholarships and was ranked by USA Today as one of the top twenty undergraduate seniors in the nation.  He then graduated ASU Summa Cum Laude at nineteen, going on to receive a master’s degree overseas in England at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal College of Music. He was accepted to both Oxford and Cambridge Universities for further graduate study in the UK.

To find out more about MacIntyre, visit his website or follow him on Facebook.

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