The Cedar Cultural Center is presenting our eighth annual Cedar Commissions program on February 1st & 2nd. We will be featuring new musical works created by six local artists, including singer-songwriter Brianna Lane.
Brianna's project, Awareness Month, is focused on her experience navigating life with chronic illness. She has been collaborating with her band on nine new songs that represent the spectrum of mind-body feelings when having a chronic illness, from normalcy to depression and anxiety. Brianna hopes her performance will promote understanding, compassion, and an openness to communicate more about physical and mental health.
Read more about Awareness Month project in Brianna’s guest blog below, and get tickets here.
Creating Awareness Month has been completely liberating. I am so grateful to have been awarded the 2019 Cedar Commissions. I have submitted a handful of proposals for Cedar Commissions over the years, and this year I decided to go big, get personal, and step outside of my creative comfort zone. Being chosen for the commission was the confidence boost that I needed to make this music that has been in me for so long. Without the award, this music would still be in pieces in my head and most likely never see the light of day. I wrote the proposal for Awareness Month, submitted it just before the deadline, and The Cedar and Jerome Foundation said, “We wanna hear THAT!” What an honor!
I have been a singer-songwriter for over 20 years. I live for folk/Americana music and I especially love well-crafted songs with killer lyrics. Usually just an acoustic guitar and one voice is all I need to hear. In fact, that’s how I perform out all the time. However, Awareness Month is anything but that. I am working with electric guitar, cello, keys, synthesizers, trumpet, drums, and additional voices in order to break out of the acoustic folk music genre. All for the singular goal of presenting my insides in music form. Yes, “my insides” means my feelings, but moreover it means my health and my physical body.
Awareness Month features nine new songs that show the arch of my chronic illness: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Lyme Disease. I collaborated with the players in my band to compose songs that showcase what my body and mind are going through at different times of my menstrual cycle. Piano player and composer, Victoria Malawey (who performs under the name Novvaa, and with the duo The Decayed Realms), worked with me to create a song that showcases what “normal” feels like. Synth player and composer Brandon Musser (aka Tenament) worked with me to create the feeling of anxiety and cellist Julia Floberg laid down the foundation for a tune that is all about depression. Composing the majority of these songs was truly a collaborative process! Victoria, Brandon, and Julia will be playing live with me on February 1st, along with Pete Gierzynski on drums, Siri Undlin (Humbird) on electric guitar, Jen Bluhm (Waltzing on Waves) on voice, and my partner Greg Neis on trumpet.
Brianna Lane's Spotify playlist of inspiration!
To the healthy person, a show about chronic illness might sound like a drag, but being chronically ill is not all doom and gloom, therefore the music will not be all doom and gloom. Living with chronic illness just requires a different kind of awareness in everyday life. I’m hoping that healthy folks will be entertained by Awareness Month and perhaps walk away with a greater sense of what it means to live with chronic illness. Perhaps this show will be attractive to folks with chronic illness and those folks will walk away feeling empowered to talk about their illness more openly. I hope that everyone walks away from this show feeling inspired to talk more openly about physical and mental health. I hope that folks also walk away with a better understanding of invisible chronic illness and a deeper compassion for folks who might not “look sick” but who might be suffering daily.
If you know someone who is chronically ill and you’re not sure how to talk with them about it, I suggest simply asking, “How are you?” and holding space for an honest answer. Perhaps get a little more specific in order to show that person you are willing to hold space for an honest answer, “I hear you’re battling Lyme Disease. How is that going for you?” I also suggest reading quick articles about what to say and what not to say to someone with chronic illness. I’ve read a lot of them and they’re all pretty great. Not everyone is open about their illness so don’t expect your sick friend to be willing to answer all the questions you might have about their disease. There is an abundance of information on the internet. You can show support for your friends and family members by researching their illness in an effort to understand them better. All that said, interacting with chronically ill people AND healthy people comes down to one simple challenge - be compassionate.
Thank you Cedar Cultural Center and Jerome Foundation for this opportunity to create new works with your support. I’m hoping Awareness Month will live on after the February 1st performance but if it doesn’t, I will, of course, continue my work as a chronic illness advocate, singer-songwriter, and composer.
See Awareness Month by Brianna Lane live at The Cedar on Friday, February 1st. Get tickets here.
For more information on Brianna Lane’s Americana music, please click here.
Consider following Brianna Lane on social media.
If you suspect that you may have PMDD or Lyme Disease it might be hard to get a correct diagnosis, let alone a treatment plan that works for you. There are online assessment tools which can be a good starting point in order to talk with your doctor. You might consider seeing a specialist. Often it’s best to be your own expert and your own advocate. Speak up and call on others for support so that you can find relief from your symptoms. There are many online support groups on Facebook that are helpful for some folks. I have found support through the following organizations as well:
For more information on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
For more information on Lyme Disease
Suicide Prevention: Text CONNECT to 741741