When the University of Utah's Crimson Line performs next week at the Hula Bowl in Hawaii, Shannon Warr will be one of eight members of the precision drill team high stepping it to the beat of "So Emotional" by Whitney Houston.
She'll be the only member who won't hear the music.The 19-year-old coed has been deaf since age 2, when she was afflicted with spinal meningitis.
But, as Ute fans can attest, the perky, blue-eyed blonde is anything but handicapped.
"The deafness isn't viewed as a handicap, but rather a disability she has to live with," said Norma Warr, Shannon's mother.
Thanks to a host of support from family and friends, Shannon's life, for the most part, has been normal.
So normal, in fact, that her mother forgets her daughter can't hear "and I holler at her. She's treated just like the other children."
Like her hearing friends, Shannon has attended public schools, taken piano lessons and worked in a fast-food restaurant to make car payments.
Starting in the third grade, she took an interest in precision dancing and has excelled. As a youngster, she was on center stage with the Bountiful Stars. In junior high she was a cheerleader, and in high school helped the Bountiful drill team capture two state championships.
Shannon was awarded a drill team scholarship to Weber State College, but thisyear transferred to the U. Despite stiff competition, she was selected a member of the Crimson Line.
Saturday, she and seven of her 16 teammates will be on their way to Hawaii to dance to music Shannon can't hear.
If you're wondering how she does it, you're not alone.
"A big fairy tale that people have is that deaf people feel the vibrations," Warr said. "They do somewhat, but for her to feel the vibrations and depend on them, she would have to have both feet planted firmly on the floor at all times."
Shannon's dancing feet are obviously off the floor more than they're on the floor.
So instead of depending on vibrations, of which there aren't many on the football field, she counts and memorizes routines.
Her method has worked.
"She's remarkable, amazing. She learns better than some of the other girls," said Lori Rupp, co-director of the Crimson Line and choreographer of the Hula Bowl pregame and halftime entertainment. "If the tempo slows down or speeds up, she stays right with the beat of the music. She has great stage presence too."
Jan Whittaker, director of Bountiful High's Mandonelles and co-director of the Crimson Line, said: "She is always on the beat. She can hear it in her head and is never off timing-wise."
Shannon's achievements don't surprise her mother.
"I learned a long time ago not to limit Shannon - to let her try whatever she wanted to do," she said. The drill team "has been very good for her; it has given her a place to belong."
Warr admits that initially it was hard to know what to do "because I had never known anyone who was hearing impaired." Trials with several different hearing aids were unsuccessful. Because of their tremendous amplification, the aids were more of a hindrance than help. Nothing worked well.
"We also looked into the different special services available and decided that Shannon should try to learn to be oral - to speak and lip read," Warr said.
It was the right decision; Shannon has mastered both skills. In fact, she speaks so clearly that many people who aren't well acquainted with her think she just has an accent. Some have even asked her what country she's from.
Although proficient in lip reading, Shannon said some college courses have been difficult for her. Last quarter in her history class, she needed the assistance of an oral interpreter and note taker.
"But she's held her own in the other subjects," Warr said. "For the most part, it (the disability) doesn't bother her."
In fact, Shannon, who can read the lips of people whispering a secret across a room, quipped, "I kind of like it."
"The only thing I really miss is not being able to listen to the music."