Founder / Executive Director
In her own words…
Healing through music is something I experienced as a child as I navigated the painful divorce between my parents and the tumultuous early years of moving 14 times and attending an equal number of schools before the 5th grade.
One day, at San Francisco International Airport, my father walked me to the gate to kiss me goodbye as I boarded a plane to fly across three state lines, to go to my mom’s home in Austin, Texas. As we embraced, tears were streaming down my face and I didn’t want to let go – I was only 8-years-old and I didn’t want to leave my adoring dad. He handed me the most meaningful gift. It was a blank hardcover journal with a lock and key, and one of those 1970’s oversized ballpoint pens with six different colors of ink
I spent that plane ride scribbling my feelings and my dad was right, my heart felt lighter. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of my becoming a songwriter. My mom and I moved back to California to a small town tucked in the Sierra foothills and my Dad still lived in San Francisco.
For many years I bounced back and forth between them. I received a ‘walkman’ for my 10th birthday, And I would listen to music on those long Greyhound bus rides every weekend and holiday. I always felt incredibly lost and alone staring out the windows at the blurring landscapes, breathing second hand smoke near the back of the bus (before the ‘no smoking’ laws were passed). I was always missing my parent and home that I was leaving behind, but when I put the music on – it was as if a portal to a happier place opened for me and I was transported to another world. When a sad song would come on, I would sing along, and this is how I taught myself to sing. I sang what was in my heart. The music gave me a home for that displaced feeling that I knew too well. I fell in love with music and would listen to cassette tapes on repeat until they wore out. An entirely new world had opened up for me. I began to dream of myself following in the footsteps of my musician heroes. Suddenly I was transfixed with inspiration and possibility. Those were my first experiences of the healing power of writing and singing music. I learned the transformation that is possible through music and how to put my story to lyrics.
Through the chaos of my childhood, music became my one constant. Music was always there and no one could take it away from me. I redirected my attention to creativity. The pen and paper became my closest confidant and friend. To this day, music is much more to me than a joyous pastime. It’s my healer and my life compass. Music is the key to my survival and life itself. Each song I write comes from this place.
In 2004, I became a voice and songwriting teacher when I wasn’t in the studio or on the road touring. Through the years, I’ve taught many hundreds of students ranging from absolute beginners to accomplished professional musicians, to lawyers wanting to improve their public speaking skills and presence in the courtroom and many more.
In addition, I began to witness the positive impact of music on some of my students who were experiencing hardship. Some of my students were using music as medicine. Individuals with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, PTSD, depression, anxiety and more began seeking me out to help them express themselves musically as part of their healing process through music.
I could see that music became an anchor point in their lives and I felt compelled to become involved and help them with their transformation. I saw that music was allowing them to turn fear and pain into creativity and expression, and the quality of their lives improved dramatically.
I began cultivating and producing the songs with my student, Bernie Dalton. Bernie mysteriously lost his voice two months after starting voice lessons with me. At first we didn’t give it much thought, but after time passed and his voice did not return, and the natural remedies failed, we turned our focus to songwriting. More time passed and Bernie started drooling uncontrollably and I sent him to be evaluated by a neurologist. After a series of tests he received the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of ALS called Bulbar Onset. He was given three years from the onset of symptoms and by that time, he already had symptoms for a year.
Bernie was losing the ability to use his hands and couldn’t speak or sing, but he had a dream to make an album of original songs before he died for his 16-year old daughter. He asked me to become his voice and put melody and music to his words. At first I declined not convinced I was capable of doing such a thing. But Bernie was determined, charming and persistent and ultimately he got his wish. I launched a series of fundraisers not knowing if anyone who didn’t know him would care. The response was overwhelming. We received an outpouring of dollars and support that I couldn’t have imagined. I put my own album on hold and turned my focus to helping Bernie as he didn’t have a lot of time. We made, what turned out to be a successful album, called ‘Connection.’
The experience changed Bernie’s remaining days and it also changed my life forever. Bernie started out as my student but he became my life teacher. He taught me how to truly live, love, and make the most of every moment. He taught me about courage and creativity and to sing from my gut, my heart, and from my core — because I was singing for him and he was singing for his life. I learned what it meant to have a mission and a message. I have had a new outlook on life ever since.
To my surprise, I had another student who followed Bernie in a similar way. I was working with Jon Brody when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at 55, during the time of our voice lessons. He was an otherwise healthy vibrant man, and never smoked. It was shocking!
Jon asked me to help him make an album of his original songs. At the time of his diagnosis he had only written one song. Of course, I could not say no. And a powerful album of brilliant songs called ‘Beckoning’ was born.
These two miraculous projects have multiplied into many more. They were both born of circumstances no one could ever have planned. I am doing my best in real time to adapt and to serve the causes as events unfold before my eyes. The journey is life-affirming and transformational. I have been reminded of the true meaning of music: connection between people, community, story telling, creativity, and self expression.
Time and again students of mine have described their musical experiences as life-altering. I now see that in addition to my own artist work as a singer-songwriter and voice teacher, I have a calling to lift others up and give voice to their story. To my own amazement, I have become a guide. It is gratifying at my core to be able to help people heal, give meaning to their lives, and create their legacies through music. After much reflection, I feel so grateful for these experiences that have shed even deeper meaning and gravity to my personal music. After much consideration and going deep into what is in my heart, I have decided to make it official and launch this organization to help people who need it most. I am committed to continuing this powerful work and healing others through music.
“Though plenty adept technically, Essence’s vocal and musical coaching approach is distinguished by deeper things than technique or teaching style. She’s a true believer in the spiritual value and potential of musical expression and how that translates to creativity, communication, and leadership in the workplace and the world at large. Anyone making a genuine offering at that particular altar benefits greatly from a kind of mutual recognition of that truth. She’s a priestess in the church of rock n’roll, a shaman for the kind of musician who needs to make music as a matter of life. She is a living emissary of the kingdom of music beyond the mundane world, and my guess is, anyone who spends some time studying with her can’t help but see that. That, I think, underlies her power as a teacher, and you can’t fake that.”
Award winning singer-songwriter
Essence Goldman is an award-winning singer-songwriter, who has been immersed in art and music since childhood. As a sixth generation native of San Francisco, her parents were two free spirited bohemian artists from the Haight-Ashbury ‘Summer of Love’ and quintessential flower children. Her birth name really is ‘Essence.’
She has released 6 CDs on both independent and major labels and has a 7th coming soon. Her sound nods to songwriting legends like Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch. In addition to writing Folk/Americana, Country, Pop and Rock songs, Essence produced a popular children’s album, “A Dog Named Moo.” Essence recently received national and international spotlights for her work with ‘Bernie and the Believers’ through NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series and BBC. The story and music of Essence’s band ‘Bernie and the Believers’ is being developed into a major Hollywood feature film on which she will co-produce in partnership with Weed Road Pictures/ Paramount and John Legend with his team ‘Get Lifted.” Essence has toured nationally, opening for Tom Petty, Jason Mraz, Shawn Colvin, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Miller, Pat Benatar, and Linda Perry.
When Essence is not in the studio recording, on the road touring, or leading a workshop ‘Finding Your Voice’ for artists and business professionals, she is a single mom of a son and daughter.
Essence’s Latest Endeavors
Essence’s forthcoming studio album ‘Father’s Daughter’ kicks up a lot of dust and covers a good number of miles. A collection of hard-won wisdom captured in songs that could never have been written without real life living. It’s an honest, and at times humorous, account of her biting losses and skidding into home plate wins. It is to-the-bone and from the heart. Steeped in the traditions of the Appalachian, Americana and Roots music that Essence grew up on along with timeless dobro guitars, aching pedal steels, rolling banjos, and rich vocal harmonies on beds of church organs. On a road filled with longing and searching, regrets and reckoning, these songs are mile markers along the way. This album is an invitation to join Essence in a rousing celebration of freedom and independence.
While in the studio making her new solo record, Essence formed a strong musical and personal bond with guitarist, producer, and songwriter Danny Uzilevsky. Their newly formed duo features twinning vocal harmonies reminiscent of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash and other great male/female duos, including Gillian Welsh and Dave Rawlings, making this pair a powerful emerging voice on the Americana landscape. They have also become a strong production team in the studio, recording and producing numerous projects for other artists.
When Essence is not in the studio recording, on the road touring, or leading powerful workshops Finding Your Voice for artists and business professionals, she is a single mom of a son and daughter.
Essence is currently launching a not-for-profit, ‘Believe Music Heals’ to bring healing through music to those who need it most.