5 min readCulture 20 July 2020
There is something both beautiful and daunting about watching the girls you've grown up with evolve into women as you yourself are also coming into your own. Singer, writer, composer, producer, and teacher Rachel Ohnsman exquisitely balances a blend of both qualities not only with her compelling nature but in her music alone. From being young Girl Scouts together to becoming acquaintances at colleges far from one another, for me, I have always been in awe seeing her musical work blossom into what it is now.
Ohnsman has released a number of loveable works from her debut album of Lovers to her fun-loving single of Cliche. Furthermore, she is now preparing to launch not one, but two fully-written albums. The only difficulty Ohnsman is grappling with is, which album to release first (I wish I had that problem!).
Creative workers are already frequently exploited by employers, especially in the COVID-19 era, which has motivated Ohnsman to develop unique ways of paying her collaborators and become a testament to her creative morals.
In each of Ohnsman's albums, Nuclear Family, and Moon Songs, her lyrical work is profoundly personal. She uses her music to explore and further process her experiences overcoming trauma. One of the most respectable commitments of her productions is that she has not forgotten all the creative artists that have helped her develop the initial phases of her striking work. In April 2019, The National Endowment for the Arts published a report revealing not only the significant number of artists and other cultural workers in the U.S. labor force but also the large number of those that hold their creative position as a second occupation. Creative workers are already frequently exploited by employers, especially in the COVID-19 era, which has motivated Ohnsman to develop unique ways of paying her collaborators and become a testament to her creative morals. According to KQED, recent Duke Ph.D. graduate Jae Yun Kim, Professor Aaron Kay, University of Oregon Professor Troy Campbell, and Oklahoma State University Professor Steven Shepherd studied the ways that passionate workers are increasingly being taken advantage of in the U.S. labor force, which in turn often equates to those in the arts. Ohnsman's professional integrity won't let a system who doesn't equate passion with work ethic stand in the way of fair pay.
Ohnsman has launched a one-of-a-kind Kickstarter where we, the supporters, get to choose which album we want to hear first, the Battle of the Concepts albums. Every single Kickstarter contribution is a vote for either album, and whichever album gets the most votes will be produced first. It is hard to grasp how she or anyone on her musical team would be able to balance producing two full-length albums and have time for anything else, which is why she needs our help in making sure creative workers are getting paid fairly. The pandemic changed the economic landscape for many, but especially artists, Ohnsman is not letting these difficult times take away from the hard-working musical collaborators that have poured their hearts into her talent.
Healing through the creative arts is a difficult process, but one that can be cathartic as well as absolutely riveting.
When I received her message, I leaped with excitement at the thought of finally being able to hear the entirety of the albums she has long been working on. In 2018, Ohnsman and I had been reconnecting to see how we could both aid each other in our work. We realized that outside of our creative endeavors, we were both women that had overcome similar traumas and were looking for ways to have our voices heard in curated but healing ways.
We originally bonded over my efforts branding The Sparkle Movement, a jewelry company to raise awareness of sexual violence, and how she could compose a song that amplified that message. Although The Sparkle Movement is on hold while I source funding, watching Ohsman continue to work through her trauma within her art has been incredibly inspiring. Ohsman originally developed her song, "Sparkle," to help amplify the Sparkle movement. And now, she's expanded the song into an entire album, Moon Songs, as a means of sharing her voice and overcoming her trauma leading to Battle of the Concepts Kickstarter. With her resilience in mind, I can't help but feel hopeful for another wave of my own healing.
The pandemic changed the economic landscape for many, but especially artists, Ohnsman is not letting these difficult times take away from the hard-working musical collaborators that have poured their hearts into her talent.
Healing through the creative arts is a difficult process, but one that can be cathartic as well as absolutely riveting. Ohnsman is incredibly brave for sharing her trauma and healing process with the world. But she couldn't have done that alone, which is why she has been upright in recognizing those who have aided her healing experience and musical endeavors. This Kickstarter campaign is not only a feat of ingenuity in itself but it is also absolutely vital for gathering funds to fairly pay instrumentalists, vocalists, producers, mixing and mastering engineers, and virtual orchestrators for the work in this particular time of economic need. And, no, it doesn't stop there. Because along with musical collaborators there is another side of the taskforce which includes: visual creators, like animators, videographers, photographers, and makeup artists as well as promotional collaborates and materials like PR specialists, physical CDs, custom stickers, pins, and more.
Both of these albums are completely written but in need of further musical and visual production. Ohnsman is offering special rewards, releases, and promotions with each level of funds that are contributed, and has exactly two days of her campaign coming to an end on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020. This is "all or nothing" for her Battle of the Concept albums, and I am happy to support Rachel Ohnsman as a friend and fan in her beautiful, daunting, and important work of amplifying artists, and women. Ohnsman's music is bursting at the seams to be heard, and I, personally, cannot wait one more second to hear it. The gorgeous arrangement of her lyrics, sounds, and visual creation coupled with her empowering, healing messages are exactly what the world needs right now.
To learn more about this unique and poerful project, you can watch the video below.
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5 min read
Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.
I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.
I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.
Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.
My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.
I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.
When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.
So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.
Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.
And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.
This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.
I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.
I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.