Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or tragedies against the backdrop of their talents? An upcoming concert in Vancouver highlights the work of three female musicians who found the strength amid life-changing losses and disabilities to become the artists they are today.
LUMINESCENCE: Chanteuse to the Power of Three, taking place at The Cultch theatre (895 Venables St, Vancouver) on March 8, features award-winning musicians Christa Couture, Sarah Jickling and Kristina Shelden.
Each woman is an award-winning singer and songwriter who also lives with a significant physical or mental disability.
Christa Couture, for example, is a widely known Canadian musician and winner of the 2008 Aboriginal Music Award. She's not just openly gay and Indigenous, but is also an amputee, having lost her leg to cancer as a teenager. She also lost two sons, and damaged her voice so badly in 2016 at one point she wasn't sure she would ever sing again. But today, she's a mother of a young baby girl, and is back performing on stage.
"As an artist with a disability, I am constantly having to challenge the notion that disability is inherently tragic and all encompassing," Couture said.
"On the contrary: being disabled has been like learning a secret or gaining a superpower, and it is just one part of my identity."
Sarah Jickling is a musician who candidly speaks about her ongoing struggle with a debilitating anxiety and bipolar disorder. Sarah has become a local advocate for mental health awareness, and has opened up about her mental illness on radio, local television, podcasts, blogs and at live speaking events. She also recently won the Anxiety BC multimedia award for her song “When I Get Better.”
"A lot of people think pain and suffering makes great art, but the truth is when you are suffering with a life long disability, it makes art a lot less accessible," said Jickling.
"Modern musicians need to be their own managers, booking agents, publicists, and much more, but living with a chronic mental illness like Bipolar Disorder can mean that even simple things like brushing my teeth are a huge deal. I have to work ten times harder just to feel normal, so doing something as difficult as making a living as an artist often seems impossible. I feel that I make art because of my disability and in spite of my disability."
Kristina Shelden started early in music, performing in choirs, musicals and jazz bands since childhood, but she suffered a c4/c5 spinal cord injury that threatened to end her advancing musical ambitions. Through hard work and determination, and despite her limitations, she is now performing, working on the board of directors for the Vancouver Adapted Music Society, and finally laying down the tracks for her first album.
Where some would see tragedy, these woman have chosen – through music – to triumph.The event is being produced by UBC's Wingspan Dis/Ability Arts, Culture and Public Pedagogy.
Featuring Christa Couture, Sarah Jickling and Kristina Shelden
The Cultch - 7:30 pm Tickets: $10-$30