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Disability Grant Will Help Disabled Woman Recover Singing Career Dream

by Renata di Pietro
(Cleveland, Georgia, USA)

I am 60. I once excelled in journalism, speech and photography in high school.

I graduated as outstanding vocal student and commissioner of music with good citizenship awards.

I became a photographer working full time at a university, but the gift of singing was so apparent that opportunities kept showing up.

So I seriously studied to learn to sing at the highest level for opera and the classical concert repertoire. I became a professional freelance opera and concert soloist winning a number of competitions.

I sang for everything within the professional level of my talent. I was even hired by the US Navy singing the National Anthem and Amazing Grace for Fort Rosecrans.

Although it wasn't the fame of today's big stars, it worked for me.

There weren't the programs that exist today to help open doors quicker and certainly the world was not ready for the exposure and triumphs of disabled people when I was young.

I've done the roles of Lucia di Lammermoor, The Queen of the Night, Gilda and have enjoyed many wonderful weddings and special events and funerals over the years as I sang in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew and English.

I've been soprano soloist for the Messiah and I have sung in Gaelic on occasion. I also sang many of the songs from musicals like the kinds of things Jeanette McDonald sang and songs from The Phantom of the Opera.

In my late 40s I took up the Celtic harp to become a singing harpist to add interest and variety to the repertoire and perhaps become a harp therapist.

I've never been a particularly good harpist, but I can do easier versions of some of the Irish music.

Another talent developed over the years was sewing beautiful stage costumes, since I couldn't afford to pay anyone to do it for me. Also as apprentice in my first opera company... I HAD to sew.

I have a wonderful husband who is a computer person and a wonderful violinist and pianist. Together we formed Harperatic (a registered business) until an early retirement.

I am an animal lover and devout Christian. I had a full life and have wonderful, incredible memories and pictures to treasure.

I never made a real professional quality recording, which saddens me, but I have some good representations of my work. Now, we live hidden in the country.

Disability Issues

I became legally blind at the age of 23 during my professional career as a photographer. I changed my career to become a classically trained coloratura soprano and life went on.

Despite winning scholarships at every college I ever went to, and despite winning the Metropolitan opera auditions, none of it mattered.

The world wasn't ready for me. If they knew I was blind I was out. By the time the blind Italian tenor came in the 90s, I was 50.

Nobody wants a performer my age and I was getting sick on top of it. Diabetes and a heart attack forced me into early retirement.

Although I've had three guide dogs, the schools won't give me another because they are afraid I'll die during training. I'm now also on home dialysis.

I beat this situation by training my own guide horse/service miniature horse. Yes, I said horse.

Angel has been seen throughout the Northeast Georgia area and has been featured in Woman's Day, May 2012 and recently in Reader's Digest's November issue.

Reader's Digest did not represent my singing career correctly or accurately. And although the horse is very special, singing was my great gift. This was heartbreaking to me.

My singing is who I was, who I am. I am multi-disabled now, but I still wish to make a real professional recording and to write a book.

Most of all I want to become a motivational speaker traveling with our instruments and guide horse to show what a little horse can do and how even a disabled person can find a life if you work at it, if you believe and commit.

The disabilities make life much more challenging, sometimes painful, but I can still see myself putting a smile on people's faces. Angel is my War Horse and we fight this battle together.

Financial Hardship

We have a lot of financial hardship. The recession and various political situations have hurt many people, but when you are disabled, it's close to impossible to get jobs.

My husband had a breakdown, which put him on disability. I am on SSDI also and hospitals, doctors and copays take almost everything we own

Sometimes there isn't enough to fix our home or buy extras. It's put us in debt, a lot of debt.

I've had four heart attacks and my husband helps me to survive as a caretaker.

I'd like to get a small Amish cart for $1,000 made to be a wheelchair of sorts so that my little horse can pull it, or I'd like an electric scooter to use outside safely.

No money.

We had to replace our 13-year-old van with a newer one and the payments are very rough on us. We need the van to transport wheelchairs and service animals and musical instruments for jobs if we can get them.

We outright bought our home seven years ago when we had money, jobs and better health, but we can't move either into a better area.

We need to work from home. I need to be able to do dialysis four times a day, rest or sleep when I need to and work when I can.

If I were to do sewing on leather to make miniature horse halters I would need a leather sewing machine. They are very expensive.

We need a second bathroom with a shower to walk in or bring a wheelchair in. This is impossible. We can't go into debt. We can't take on another bill.

If I were to start a business, this costs. If I were to make a recording, mechanical licenses and recording situations are expensive. We don't have it.

Income Efforts

We cannot find work. We are both on SSDI. Our church donated $340 to start the training of my guide horse.

We have little family and no family to help.

I did write for a grant that paid for our new air conditioning system and another for a wheelchair ramp.

There is very little available to Georgians. They love the idea of the guide horse after the fact, but my horse still needs more training and I can't get funding for her.

Specific Needs

I need grants that we don't have to pay back. Many of our problems could be fixed with extra money. It takes money to make money.

Even a scooter that's balanced well would be safer for use outside the home.

A walk in, roll in shower and new bathroom set up for cleanliness and handicapped accessibility would be helpful, but we need it built on from the bedroom.

We need advice to help us try to work at home. I want to write a book on Angel and I and publish it, but when it's finished, one has to have money to publish it, print it etc.

Perhaps I need just a touch of empathy too, it gets very difficult when you can't bring in more money and are too sick to do it. Any suggestions?

Business Idea

Finance a business? Perhaps to write the book and finish Angel's training so that I can go around to businesses to demonstrate her.

I want to become a BARD with voice, violin horse and harp and perform for organizations, schools etc. in costume.

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