Aug 7, 2023

Talented Singer Overcomes Blindness with the Power of Melodies

Beacon Stories

Sarah Hardwig’s love for music began from her earliest days, creating a purpose that would sustain even in the face of adversity. Diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) before her first birthday, the young artist continues to defy all odds and utilize her voice as a powerful beacon of hope.

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By Simone Robinson

A close up photo of Sarah Hardwig.

Meet the remarkable songbird, Sarah Hardwig, who emerged from the sun-kissed shores of Naples, Florida. Sarah received a diagnosis of a retinal degenerative disease a few months after birth, but at the tender age of 4, music became her guiding light. The power of pop melodies and songwriting ignited her determination to push forward, becoming a beacon of light for all who lend an ear.

At just five months old, Sarah's mother noticed a troubling change in her daughter's gaze. Sarah's eyes were no longer tracking her movements. Seeking medical advice, her parents took her to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, where she received a formal diagnosis of Leber congenital amaurosis.

As Sarah continued to grow, her condition proved to be a significant challenge, particularly during her time in school.

“I would break down crying in the first or second grade, because I couldn’t see what was happening on the whiteboard in math class even though I had accommodations,” recalls Sarah. “The main challenge was accepting the fact that I couldn’t see, and the other challenge was figuring out how to deal with it. However, I was fortunate to have staff that helped me.”

Undeterred by the initial challenges she faced during her adolescence, Sarah, now a 20-year-old living in Nashville, Tennessee, has not allowed her blindness to discourage her from accomplishing her goals. She began mobility training a few years ago to learn how to cross streets and navigate in an area.

“The main thing people think when they encounter a blind person is that they cannot do much because they are blind. We may not be able to do as much as a person with vision can do, but we can certainly do a lot of things. Proving to people that I can do things despite the fact that I am blind is amazing,” says Sarah.

Sarah performing at the Tennessee Songwriters Showcase Finale, after winning the showcase and becoming one of seven to sing in the finale at Bluebird Cafe. Photo by Hunter Berry Photography

Sarah's love for music began at an early age, nurtured by her musically inclined parents, instilling in her a deep passion for the art. Since then, she has held an unwavering determination to pursue music.

“When I was 3 or 4 years old, I would stand or sit in front of the TV just listening, and that made me want to pursue music. I just loved singing and singing at my kindergarten graduation at the age of 5 made me want to become a singer even more,” says Sarah.

However, the turning point in the young songstress's journey came when she attended her first CMA Fest in 2011, prompting her to start taking her singing career more seriously. Since then, Sarah has performed with renowned artists such as Charles Kelley, Steven Tyler, Lauren Alaina and LoCash. Notably, she has amassed an impressive record of 250 national anthem performances, including the Miami Dolphins at the age of 9. 

She also performed each year at Scramble Fore Sarah, a golf charity event hosted by her family. The annual event, which ended in 2020, raised approximately $125,000 for the Lighthouse of Collier, Inc., and the Foundation Fighting Blindness over the course of eight years.

Now, enrolled as a songwriting major at Belmont University, she looks forward to beginning her junior year this upcoming fall.

“Belmont has been very good to me. I have had the best professors when it comes to songwriting,” she says. “The greatest professors I’ve had so far are Drew Ramsey, James Elliot, Jodi Marr and Mrs. Victoria Banks, who has written songs for a lot of country singers such as Mickey Guyton.”

With her vision restricted to just light perception due to her condition, she has taken a unique approach in the way she crafts her music.

Sarah performing with Charles Kelley of Lady A (formerly Lady Antebellum) at the pro-am party for the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida, on Dec. 7, 2018. Photo by Michael O'Bryon Photography

“A lot of songwriting tends to be detailed and image based, but I can definitely say that my songwriting is less image based. It’s primarily focused on thoughts, because incorporating feelings and thoughts helps other people relate to the song more,” she says.

When envisioning the future of her music career, Sarah is determined to ensure that the label of blindness doesn’t define her or her artistry.

“A lot of people will try to put you in a box, and boxes are very limiting. I am going to be the person that breaks out of the box,” she says. “I want to be seen as a songwriter who just so happens to be blind, but I don’t want that to define me. This is why I love artists who truly experiment with expressing themselves sonically and visually, because they are not letting anything define them,” she says.

With boundless potential ahead, Sarah plans to release three new songs next year, a prelude to her ultimate goal of creating an EP and releasing a full-length album.