Eric Miller uses the power of an intimate setting and musical performances to educate local and global audiences on epilepsy and its risks.
Tragic events often turn regular individuals into passionate and inspirational advocates. Meet one of them.
In August 2011, when his 25-year-old wife, Carolina Barcelos Carneiro de Oliveira Miller, passed away as a result of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), Eric Miller refused to let grief overcome him. He decided that honouring her memory and helping others would be a much better idea.
Miller came up with the idea of using music to raise awareness of epilepsy and SUDEP:
"I think the most powerful things we experience in life are often related or relived through art and music particularly," he says in an email. "Some of my greatest memories shared with Carolina resonate in the music we enjoyed together – our wedding dance, going to concerts, singing together in the car, etc. So when it comes to communicating and drawing attention to a message, I cannot think of a more powerful way."
Things started earlier this year, when Miller organized a memorial / benefit concert for Carolina during Purple Day. The event was so successful that he felt an urge to maintain the momentum. He founded the Candlelight Concerts Series for Epilepsy Awareness, a house concert series based in Pennington, New Jersey. The first performance was held in May.
"The shows are literally in my living room, in front of a fireplace with Carolina’s photo on the mantel," Miller adds. "It’s an intimate setting and a great space (with a capacity of about 40) to host music."
"Each show is unique and features varied talent. It’s also nice to have a bit of a community feeling at these shows. People meet and network, often around the epilepsy cause or by being a fan of a particular performer. It truly is an awareness event. I also have various organizations from the epilepsy community on-hand at each show. Team Epilepsy and the Epilepsy Foundation are both regular attendees – providing information and accepting donations. Everyone has been amazing."
While physical seating is limited, each performance is streamed online and available to viewers around the world through StageIt.com. The stream, which also features a chat room, is offered for a pay-what-you-like donation going towards several charities such as the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey, CURE and The Talk About It Foundation. So far, Miller has managed to raise $5,000 in only five concerts.
Artist Ari Hest
Eight more performances are planned until January 2013: Ari Hest (July 22), Freedy Johnston (August 4), Sharon Little (August 11), Meg Hutchinson (August 18), Val Emmich (September 8), Young Dubliners (September 23), Carsie Blanton (September 29), and Dan Reed (January 4). Miller is also working on a bigger endeavour for next Purple Day:
"If it can grow to a national telethon level, that would be just stellar," he says. "I’m a long, long way from there, but that is certainly something I’m continuing to work towards. When it comes to honoring Carolina, for me, the sky is the limit."
One in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. "A stunningly high and little known number," Miller states.
For more information on the Candlelight Concert Series for Epilepsy Awareness, visit candlelightconcert.org and / or Facebook.