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Eric Miller's Bold Move To Raise Awareness Of Epilepsy

By Gary Wien


Eric Miller is coordinating 50 Concerts in 50 States for Epilepsy Awareness in honor of his wife Carolina who passed away from epilepsy at 25. The concerts partner with the largest organizations (Epilepsy Foundation, CURE & others) in epilepsy on a single weekend. Some of the artists they have on board include Eric Clapton, Colbie Caillat, Owl City, Supertramp's Roger Hodgson, Brian Regan, Loudon Wainwright III, They Might Be Giants and dozens more. The 50 Concerts in 50 States had its origins years ago as a house concert series in Pennington, NJ. NewJerseyStage.com recently spoke with Miller about taking the awareness project to a much higher level.


You started with house concerts to raise awareness of epilepsy. The 50 concerts in 50 states is a tremendous leap forward. What inspired you to take the project to this level?
A friend of mine, Catie Curtis, worked on a similar project for Voices United in 2012 and it inspire me in terms of format. Combined with the fact that I knew I wanted to do something big and take it to the next level in March 2013. I think you need to do big, bold things to really get attention, which is the primary focus, raising awareness for epilepsy. And the reason it is in March is to specifically be in conjunction with the annual epilepsy awareness day, Purple Day which is every year on March 26th. So, we've tried to coordinate as many of the 50 Concerts in 50 States around that weekend as possible.

How did you first get starting with hosting concerts? Are you a musician? Involved in the business somehow?
I've always been a huge music nerd. Along with a longtime friend, I put out a small music magazine in the 90s, which is probably how I got my foot in a lot of doors. In the past few years, I've done some booking for artists and for venues and it's been growing. The first house concert I hosted was with Jeffrey Gaines and it kicked off this series in May 2012. I was honored to have him specifically as he was someone that my wife Carolina and I both really enjoyed. I've since had 27 house concerts in just about 10 months with all sorts of artists. It's very rewarding to combine my passion for music with my driven advocacy efforts in the world of epilepsy.

Looking over the list of concerts for the March weekend, it's amazing seeing all of the various styles of music (and even comedy and dance) represented and then one name stands out - Eric Clapton. How did you get approval for those shows? You must be either fearless or very persistent!
I very much take a "no swings, no hits" approach! There really has been an absence of national, high-profile epilepsy awareness efforts - and it's something that affects so many people (1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their life), that the odds are kind of in my favor. It's almost overdue. For example, Garbage was eager to participate as they have a band member living with epilepsy. It touches so many lives. I also present what I believe is a persistent and compelling story. To be frank, the drive for all of this still comes from honoring my wife Carolina, who passed as a result of epilepsy. In the interest of raising awareness, I do share her story and I think people of all types respond - include multi-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

There's such an amazing blend of artists from big names to rising stars. Are there any under-the-radar artists you'd like to point out?
The variety is by design - in the same way that epilepsy affects people of all ages, races, income & education so does music. We all have different things we listen to. So by casting a wide net we can get the info out to the widest audience. There are a few artists that I'm personally proud to have on board. Jann Klose is a great singer-songwriter from New York and he'll be playing a show here in New Jersey as part of my "flagship" show alongside Jeffrey Gaines and guitar wiz Gary Hoey. The young artist opening that show Amy Faden is also spectacular. In terms of artists local to New Jersey, I cannot say enough good things about Sofia Nicole. She's played two of my house concerts so far and is returning in May.

Are you still adding shows? Are there any states you haven't locked down performances for yet?
At the time of answering this, I'm at 76 shows in 41 states. Some states are proving tricky as there simply isn't as much activity as, say, New York. If we don't get all 50 States, that's fine. We're making noise where there was none previously, so if it's 40 states this year, maybe next year we hit all 50 (and beyond!)

Each show features volunteers handing out literature and collecting donations. How can people volunteer? And what kind of help do you need for these shows?
That's right. We're printing a 16 page Playbill-style program that will be distributed at all of these events around the country. I pulled in the largest organizations in the world of epilepsy and we've partnered on the program - with each organization providing content. I've written a page specifically to honor Carolina for example, but others have written about first aid, statistics about epilepsy and so on It really is the first coordinated piece of epilepsy awareness literature distributed on this scale. People have been volunteering around the country to assist - as hosts of events, as performers and as volunteers/street team. All of which can be done on my website at http://www.candlelightconcert.org/50.asp. You can also see the confirmed events around the country listed there.

Any plans for the future? If the 50 concerts in 50 states goes well, do you see it becoming an annual event?
Yes, this will be an annual event. The reaction has been nothing short of astounding. I kicked this off in November and within 3-4 months we have such artists on board as Eric Clapton, Garbage, Colbie Caillat, Tegan & Sara, Owl City, Supertramp's Roger Hodgson, Living Colour, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, They Might Be Giants, Donavon Frankenreiter, Brian Regan, Minus The Bear/Circa Survive, Loudon Wainwright III and dozens more. I'm building relationships with the venues, the performers and growing the national network of volunteers.

Finally, your wife died of epilepsy when she was just 25. Had she been fighting it all of her life or was it something that came on quickly?
Carolina had been diagnosed in her teenage years. Like many, she didn't have a clear cause for her seizures. Meaning, no distinct incident of head trauma, etc.. Her seizures were pretty infrequent. Again, not uncommon. She was fortunate in that fact. Many living with epilepsy are not as fortunate and have it more severly. I should point out that epilepsy is actually a spectrum of neurological disorders - some seizure types are more severe and some are more controllable than others. In Carolina's case, it didn't affect her day-to-day life. Her seizures were controlled with medication. She was an exceptionally brilliant woman by every measure. In the six years I knew her, she'd only had two seizures, the second being fatal. It wasn't until after her passing that I learned that epilepsy could be fatal. I'm fairly certain she didn't know that either, which is awful. In fact, about 50,000 people a year die as a result of seizure related causes. A huge and shocking number that most certainly deserves as many national awareness campaigns as possible. I am one guy, doing my part to honor my wife and those living with or lost to epilepsy. Hopefully using the power of music and carrying a banner that some will follow. In setting up 50 Concerts in 50 States for Epilepsy Awareness and building this network of volunteers, we're finally uniting to move that message forward. Together we can change the way the world sees and understands epilepsy.



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Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show.  For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27
(BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.
McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.
Bickford Theatre Presents Herb Gardner's Groundhog Jam
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The great Groundhog Jam has a long history of prying jazz fans out of their warm burrows and into the chill of February weather in order to welcome the advent of spring.  The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum continues a tradition of hosting this event on Monday, February 4 at 7:30pm. Herb Gardner, who plays both trombone and piano, is assembling a stellar group of musicians from the New York, New Jersey, and New England areas including: Fred Vigorito on cornet, Joe Licari on clarinet, James Chirilloon guitar, Mike Weatherly on bass and Robbie Scott on drums.  Daughters Abbie and Sarah Gardner will be handling the vocals and guitar.


Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.
Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center
The Grunin Center stage in Toms River, NJ is set this Saturday, December 15, 2018 with drums, a grand piano, a guitar, an acoustic bass, and various microphones for vocals. A stool and several microphone stands are bedazzled with colorful garlands of shiny red, gold, and green, and wrapped gifts are strewn on stage among the instruments. Projected white snowflakes adorn the walls, and Christmas music plays as patrons enter the theater to put everyone in the mood for tonight’s holiday show — Ana Gastayer’s Holiday Tipple!










Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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