Sterling Songwriter Learns to ‘Sing Above’ Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis

Sterling Songwriter Learns to ‘Sing Above’ Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis

Music has always been a big part of life for Michelle Rockholt (Barbiere).

When she began suffering symptoms about two years ago that would eventually be diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, the music that had filled her daily life was pushed aside by her struggles with daily life.

This week, on Nov. 9, Barbiere will return to the stage, trying to put back the last piece of her life that MS tore asunder. She will mark her return with an original song, “Sing Above,” that she will be sharing for the first time in public.

“I put a lot of heart and soul into this song, and it has a lot of layers,” Barbiere said. ”I looked back on the situation that happened about two years ago and this is the situation I felt compelled to sing about, as its part of the reason I’m back and stronger than ever. It has not been an easy two years, but I think that I have turned it into as positive a situation as I can. Everybody goes through a bunch of things in their life. It’s OK to not be OK, but it’s about eventually learning to ‘sing above’ all the circumstances we will face in life.”

Barbiere, who performs as Michelle Ann, said her love of music was fostered growing up through her church. She graduated from Herndon High School and now lives a short distance away in Sterling.

Her church music experience eventually evolved into singing with various groups and cover bands, making connections along the way. One of those connections led her to her current label – Grander Music – which is sponsoring the show Nov. 9 featuring Barbiere and three other Grander artists.

“I had met Don Halterman when we played together once or twice,” Barbiere said. “He invited me to lunch and said he was looking for some ‘authentic’ and talented people to be on his label and that spoke to me. He said he wanted someone to sing on a Christmas song he had been working on. He and my husband and I ended up arranging instruments and some lyrics and we finished writing and producing it in about a three-week span of time, which isn’t normal for songwriting but it was almost done before we received it. He just wanted someone to bring it to life. ”

Her husband, Dan, is also a musician. They had been married about a year when Michelle began having health problems.

“The symptoms just hit me like a Mack truck,” she said. “I had to stop everything to figure out what was gong on. I ended up going to a number of neurologists and having all kinds of tests. They finally diagnosed it as MS.”

Barbiere’s life – and music – hit a roadblock as she and her doctors struggled with her MS symptoms.

She was able to perform for the first time about a year after the MS surfaced. That performance is where she played with the founder of Grander Music, which is how their relationship started.

“That was a big moment for me,” said Barbiere. “It was a big moment for my music but also for my life. It was the first time I had done anything with my music for about a year and a half.”

Barbiere donated her portion of the money raised by “Purpose” to Bethany Services of Fairfax. She said her donation to the adoption agency was her way of marking her first single ever by giving back to the agency that helped bless her life finding her a forever family.

“Being adopted 30 years ago, God blessed me with my family and my birth mother decided to do the most selfless thing, to give me a better life,” Barbiere said. “For that I will always be so grateful.”

The show coming up Nov. 9 features four artists on the Grander Music label. The others are Molly Nuss, Nick Cirillo and Audrey Mormann.

“That is special to me, for one thing it will be all original music by the label and I will be the artist performing my original as well,” Barbiere said. “My song, ‘Sing Above,’ is coming out Nov. 9. that is the first time anyone is ever going to hear it live.”

Barbiere knows she is taking a chance by going in front of a live audience, since MS symptoms are wildly unpredictable.

“It’s a risk for me but we can’t live if we only focus on fear,” she said. “I am extremely vulnerable with this song, even just hearing it play back I get emotional. Being vulnerable in any way you can connect with people and I hope just me performing and sharing my heart and performing despite my circumstance, inspires people. This song is the one I felt a tug on my heart to share and finish and I feel it can spread hope to a lot of people.”

A Night of Grander Music begins at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the State Theatre in Falls Church. For more information, visit her artist page: facebook.com/michelleannmusic and get tickets at thestatetheatre.com/events/e2086.xml

Joseph Dill
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