The ARISE Music Arts Communication founder launches her new charitable project Dec. 9 to address many of the nation's biggest social issues.
Susan Gabriel has a pink flamingo as a guardian angel. Well, actually anyone who reads her children's story "Pink Flamink" can, or whoever buys the painting hanging on her wall that goes along with it.
After five minutes in Gabriel’s home, this flamingo symbol begins to make sense. Her living room has the warmth of a children's playroom, with shutters open just enough to let sunshine illuminate her turquoise end table and signature pink ukulele. A keyboard, flute and several other instruments sit patiently on their stands, just waiting to be played by hands both young and old.
Gabriel is a writer, jazz musician, singer, painter, creative coach and much more, but what she’s perhaps most known for locally is her music program, ARISE Music Arts Communication, which teaches people of all ages in kindergarten all the way up into college.
The community outreach-focused curriculum is adaptive and is designed specifically for the needs of the individual or organization it's used for, i.e. if a hospice facility approached Gabriel, she would design a lesson that would work with the needs and abilities of hospice patients.
She’s worn many hats since moving to Sarasota from the New York City area in 2014, but Gabriel is now taking on her biggest endeavor yet by starting SuzeMuze Studio, a fiscally sponsored project of nonprofit Fractured Atlas.
“Imagine touching hearts isolated to transform into hope integrated,” she says of her project.
Gabriel believes art of all forms can provide a gateway to transform the lives of people experiencing pain, so her mindset is, "from the page to the stage," to focus on serving those who have been faced with the increasingly prominent issues of suicide, PTSD, substance abuse and sexual assault.
These are all subjects that have touched Gabriel’s life in various ways — experiences she documents in her three books, “In Time A Gift: First Book of Lyric & Poetry Re-membered,” “Clobbered: An Unbelievable Story Be-Coming Innocence” and a third that will be released around Valentine’s Day.
Gabriel’s written works — all written under her pen name Drennan Gabriel — are part of the first of three priorities of her project.
THE POWER OF WORDS
These books make up the first piece of the puzzle that is SuzeMuze Studio, Gabriel’s “A Pi(e) Poet Book Collection.” These personal stories, song lyrics, poems and more are all inspired by the dark days she emerged from stronger after looking to love as her authority.
“They all mirror the essence, which is stories and songs create solutions,” Gabriel says of the books’ place in the charitable project. “By me being in the vulnerability of my life I’ve opened up, and as a result of the wounds I’ve let love touch and the wisdom it’s given me, it’s expanded my voice.”
Gabriel says she’s experienced a great deal of loss in her life — her father died when she was 15 and a few years later one of her best friends died by suicide — and she grew up in a household heavily affected by alcoholism. Performance was her survival, she says, and it’s because of her lifelong passion for the arts that she can effectively share her story of surviving many traumatic experiences.
“In Time, a Gift,” a book of poetry and thoughts, follows her teenage years and early 20s as a TV journalist-turned-musician — aka life before she accepted her trauma. “Clobbered” is the the second book chronologically but the first to be released under SuzeMuze Studio, and it’s about the revelation and transformation that occured when she processed her injuries and began to move forward. Her third book will be a collection of essays and stories about the “here and now.”
But to continue the series, she needs backers. That’s why she’s hosting a fundraiser/project launch party called Just Desserts on Dec. 9, to raise the money needed to put put all three books in 38,000 bookstores around the world, supplemented with a book tour.
“This is the internal music I was given as a result of processing all this stuff,” Gabriel says. “I saw that I could be a help ... There was nothing like this when I was going through this, I was alone. So I wrote for others.”
SHARING HER VOICE
The second tier of the project is all about spreading the word. Gabriel plans to continue the Inside Out New World Tour she started in New York, which will offer a chance to spread her message of love and acceptance through concerts, plays, film/TV adaptations and speaking engagements across the U.S.
Gabriel’s goal is to let those suffering know that they’re not alone, and to encourage them to rely on imagination as a means of addressing critical issues.
She’s looking for supporters for all aspects of SuzeMuze Studio, but this is an area of the project that is critically in need of funding, she says, because putting on concerts and other outreach events requires her to hire musicians and other people to make the events run smoothly.
“It’s a fledgling organism that needs a jump start,” Gabriel says. “Right now I really need this book expansion and support for the concert staff and costs.”
TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
The third and final segment of the project focuses on the music education program she already has in place, ARISE Music Arts Communication.
Gabriel wants to continue to expand her online and in-person creative coaching initiative, which offers lessons in voice, guitar, piano, flute, ukulele, songwriting and more to both children and adults. This award-winning curriculum operates under the mantra of “designed to entertain, destined to educate,” meaning Gabriel believes learning musical and other artistic skills helps develop human character.
As SuzeMuze Studio grows, she wants to focus on offering creative communication workshops for veterans, families, at-risk youth, trauma and recovery populations and hospitals, which she hopes to do by partnering with local nonprofits.
So — how do all these pieces fit together?
“It’s literary music arts outreach to impact critical issues of our time,” Gabriel says. “This is a culmination of my life’s work. My relationship with my own art used to be about survival — so I’m letting those elements transform into forms of love to touch and inspire people.”