…I feel like I am not someone with influence at this time but someone who wants to be a part of a greater cause. We shouldn’t be creating a movement but building off momentum that exists right now. We need to erase racism and amplify Black Lives Matter. We need to get rid of discrimination, help minorities claim their voice.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Piera Van de Wiel. Born in England, Piera is a singer-songwriter and actor passionate about social impact and storytelling. She is the founder “Stronger With Music,” a collective that promotes the importance of music and mental health and music and social impact. She has worked and performed with NGOs globally, including the Barefoot College International, Applaud Our Kids Foundation at 54 Below, the Aspire Artemis Foundation, and has sung at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for International Women’s Day sponsored by the Mission of Djibouti, and at other UN sponsored events around the world, including the Regional STEAM & Innovation Symposia in St Lucia with UN Women and Microsoft. She has also performed at the Jazz at Lincoln Center where Spike Lee and Alec Baldwin were presenting. With her music, she hopes to benefit others; from her single release in 2019 “Come Back Home” which was written to aid humanitarian efforts in the Abacos Bahamas that was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian. This song has been recognized and received a Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Listener Impact at the Global Music Awards for independent artists.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
I’m Piera Van de Wiel, Singer Songwriter, Actor and also Founder of collective Stronger With Music that promotes the importance of Music and Mental Health and Music and Social Impact. I first discovered the power of music, when I went through a personal tragedy of losing my best friend when I was just 15 years old. I wrote music to alleviate my grief and my emotions, and it was in that moment I felt I was stronger with music. It was a coping mechanism to manage my pain.
I received my BFA in Acting at the Tisch School of the Arts, with minors in Music and Business Entertainment. I continue to write songs and build Stronger With Music. I saw the true value, vision, and meaning in helping others through the power of music and storytelling and starting working with NGOs all around the world. Including the Aspire Artemis Foundation, Applaud Our Kids Foundation, performing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Barefoot College International, Impact NYC, my Abaco Relief song “Come Back Home” for humanitarian relief efforts for the Bahamians after natural disaster Hurricane Dorian, and my recent single “Used” that is supporting the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women to raise funds to help women and girls who are victims of abuse during Covid-19.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
As an Actor my first Off-Broadway role I played the role of Milady de Winter in an outside production of The Three Musketeers with the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Playing the villain with a tight corset on in 80 degrees of heat, hiding my multiple stage knives inside my billowing dress with crowds cheering on when my character was killed. At the time of rehearsals I became sick. Each day I was taking antibiotics and steroids, but on the road to recovery. You would find me in the corner on my yoga mat sleeping in between rehearsals and stuffing tuna sandwiches into my face once I woke up! This was an exciting period, with the New York Times, TimeOut, and press coming to see the show. TimeOut called Milady “Pretty and Deadly” and they were right! I was! This experience taught me the strength of my resilience and persistence.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
You have power in your vulnerability. When you are vulnerable, afraid, scared, upset, you can empower yourself with these emotions and relay the message behind the feeling. Usually when you are most afraid you are on the tipping point of something fantastic. Have the courage to explore that feeling.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
My parents: my father taught me how to build my strength, resilience and practicality with every ounce of kindness; my mother taught me generosity and to love and give love, and that with love we change the way people think, their attitudes, their mindsets, thus causing a positive ripple effect to those we meet and affect in our lives. As a singer songwriter and actor I aim to give out love, kindness, strength and support causes for social action — to come together as one, as equals.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
I am continuously looking for ways to advocate for unrepresented and suppressed voices. My work with my songwriting, singing, and my mission with Stronger With Music is to connect and partner with NGOs and companies where I can amplify their message through music. I’ve worked with the Barefoot College International that train local women from rural villages to become solar engineers in India, Africa, and Latin America, I wrote and performed an original song for this organization called “Women of Light” which I performed in New York; the Aspire Artemis Foundation, who work for the improvement of the lives of children, young people and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, which led me to perform at the United Nations HeadQuarters on International Women’s Day sponsored by the Mission of Djibouti, and other UN sponsored events around the world.
I wrote the humanitarian relief song “Come Back Home” after Hurricane Dorian destroyed the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, a place I had called home since I was a baby so we could raise money to rebuild homes, feed people and give them water. A rallying anthem to encourage people to come back to Abaco and support them. This song received the Listener Impact award at the Global Music Awards 2020.
My current cause is with my new single “Used” and it’s fundraising initiative supporting the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. I was able to reach out to the UN via Hermina Johnny, Founder of the Aspire Artemis Foundation. I spoke of my single “Used”, and my mission of using music as a new avenue in increasing awareness and raising funds for domestic violence victims, especially women and girls.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
During this time of Covid-19, people have been asked to quarantine and isolate inside their homes. But homes are not always a safe place. Domestic violence and abuse has increased exponentially in this quarantined time frame. I want to do my part in supporting victims of domestic abuse, and I felt strongly that I wanted to connect my song “Used” with this cause. “Used” is a song that is an emotional rollercoaster of how one can feel so safe where you let your barriers down only to feel used and taken for granted but ends with a lasting positive message of strength and hope. The link between music and domestic violence is that when Domestic Violence occurs there is dysregulation around emotional understanding — it is the lack of capacity to self-soothe emotionally. Music is a natural self soother and acts as a soothing mechanism.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I was presenting and performing at the Carribean STEAM & Innovation Global Symposia in St Lucia in February. I was incorporating findings on how music can physiologically and psychologically affect us. The local children from the high schools in St Lucia attended and the young girls and boys came up to me and asked more questions about how music can benefit their lives. We spoke of music therapy, music and neuroscience; they saw the potential the arts have when it comes to our brains and our mental health. With interest, comes impact, with impact comes change.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Please consider listening to my single “Used,” visit my spotify profile where through the new fundraising tool you can donate to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Music has the potential to be the gateway to social action and impact. You can support neuroscientists who are doing research into music and our brains and hire musicians and singer songwriters at global events and causes, innovations and breakthroughs — Music brings us together.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there” — you need to have belief in yourself before you start a new endeavor or face a challenge.
“It’s hard keeping your heart open it makes you vulnerable but it doesn’t make you weak” — it makes you stronger.
“Rejection shows you the path to a new direction” — there is always a new opportunity to be had elsewhere, remember that.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I feel like I am not someone with influence at this time but someone who wants to be a part of a greater cause. We shouldn’t be creating a movement but building off momentum that exists right now. We need to erase racism and amplify Black Lives Matter. We need to get rid of discrimination, help minorities claim their voice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
“When you’re up against it, and your hopes sink low, that’s the time for courage, that’s the time to show, just what you are made of, how much you can dare, how much you will live for and how much you can care.” (Old Scottish prayer) This quote was on a plaque on the wall by Granny’s fireplace. The words have always stayed with me and whenever I feel troubled that’s the time for courage.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
It would be Rihanna, her social impact efforts are outstanding. Through Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation she donated 2.1 million dollars to support the LA Domestic Violence victims in lockdown.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!