Parkinson's disease has limited the way legendary jazz guitarist Sangeeta Michael Berardi plays, but not his desire to keep making music any way he can. Now, eleven years after his diagnosis and no longer the technical virtuoso he once was, he is going into a recording studio again, joining with some of the musicians from his past to make a new CD called "Playing with Parkinson's".
Sangeeta is not only a musician who has played and recorded with many jazz greats, but also a writer, painter, poet, philosopher, meditator – the name "Sangeeta" means Divine Song – and, once, in 1958 when he was 18, a bank robber (the idea was to get enough money to just play music). He has no illusions about where the path of Parkinson's (or Mr. P as he calls it) ultimately leads ("Maybe God will be kind", he says, "and let me get hit by a train or a truck and I won't even see it coming."). But that will be then. Meanwhile, this is now and Sangeeta fills each moment with courage, determination, zero self-pity and plenty of joy.
The recording session is planned for June when Sangeeta will be entering a studio for the first time since the advent of his Parkinson's. "My goal" he says, "is to take the tremors of Parkinson's and turn them into into unique rhythms and sound. My instruments will be the guitar, of course ,though not like before, but I'll also bring bowls and spoons, or my pill containers in a bag, or my compromised voice, or almost anything that serves as an extension of Mr. P, for he is as much a presence in this recording as the other musicians. I won't be able to keep up with these amazing players instrumentally nor do I expect them to limit themselves to what I can or can't do, either. The challenge will be to see whether we can merge on a new common ground based on sound, intention and what I like to call the "'virtuosity of the soul.''"
Yes, this is a film about music. And Parkinson's. And the conversion of "disabilities" into new abilities. But, at it's heart, this is a film about the human spirit, transcendence and the everyday heroes (the last word Sangeeta would use about himself) walking among us.
WHAT WE NEED
We have been filming Sangeeta, on and off, since last summer, both in the San Francisco area where he lives and in Upstate, NY, his former home, through the help of some early donors. Now comes the critical time as Sangeeta is coming East for the recording session, the planning, the rehearsals and the two days in the studio with five other musicians. We had budgeted (tightly) for this phase of the production and thought we had funding in place, but it has either disappeared or been delayed. So we are turning to the Kickstarter community for assistance. If we make our goal, the project continues. If we exceed it, the additional funds go toward editing, sound design, color correction and all the other items in our post-production budget. And if we don't, I consult with Sangeeta about the finer points of bank robbery.
WHERE THE MONEY GOES
Bringing Sangeeta East and helping to pay for his expenses while here; filming Sangeeta and music director John Esposito as they sketch out the music and plan the recording; filming one day of rehearsals and two days of recording with a crew of three camerapeople using top-end HD equipment (rented to us at a big discount!); renting the recording studio; paying the musicians; feeding musicians and crew on location; local travel; and the ever useful miscellaneous category for the unexpected as well as whatever I forgot to mention.
HOW IT WORKS/WHAT YOU GET IN RETURN
You begin by making a pledge, no money is given now. You're only required to make good on your pledge if we meet our goal ($9.500 by June 8). On the side of this page you see various levels of pledges, and the rewards for each. If you want to make a pledge you click on the level you want. Note each pledge level is followed by the words "or more", which means your pledge can be anywhere from that amount to one dollar less than the amount of the pledge for the next level. So, for instance, you could pledge for $100 but actually make your pledge anywhere from $100 to $174, which is just before the next pledge level of $175. In return for your pledge, we offer a variety of rewards depending on the pledge level. Each successive level has a different reward, and most (but not all) levels not only give the reward for that level but also the ones for the preceding level. Some of the rewards are material, like CDs and DVDs, drawings and even ring tones. Some are less tangible, like your name in the credits on our website and on the film. None are compulsory. You can choose to take them, or leave them, as you see fit. Either way, one reward will always remain: the knowledge that you helped this film get made and, more importantly, seen.
If we reach our goal, Kickstarter takes 5% of whatever we've raised for their administrative fees. We're going to take another 5% of whatever we raise and donate it to Parkinson's Unity Walk, an annual grassroots event in New York's Central Park where 100% of all donations raised goes directly to Parkinson's research. We were led there by the amazing Nobuko Cobi Narita, tireless supporter of jazz musicians and other artists in the New York area for more than 35 years and who, at 85 and also with Parkinson's, organizes and leads a team of marchers in this event every year.
UPDATE AS OF JUNE 3rd. WE'VE MADE IT!!!
Yesterday we reached our kickstarter goal and we're deeply grateful to everyone, both those who pledged and those who believed in this project and supported us in so many ways. We paused for a BIG sigh of relief (the first since we began). But now, while our fundraising clock is still kicking, we'd like to devote our final four KS days to gathering funds toward the next phase of the project: post-production,or editing, which is where the final film comes together. So any additional funds we can raise in the precious time remaining will be a big "kickstart" (sorry!) to this process. Thank you.
And now we'd like to leave you with footage we shot just yesterday. It is of Sangeeta, who had only arrived in Woodstock a few hours earlier from the West coast, trying out a variety of bowls at the world famous Woodstock Chimes, courtesy of it's owner, Garry Kvistad, selecting the ones he will be using in the recording session.
- (30 days)