The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Playwright, Singer-Songwriter, Recording and Performing Artist, Lisa Sniderman ‘Aoede’
Lisa Sniderman, whose artist name is Aoede, is a playwright, singer-songwriter, and recording and performing artist from San Francisco. But above all, she is a warrior.
Despite suffering from a rare and debilitating auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, Sniderman has used adversity as a catapult and inspiration to create music.
Her latest material What Are Dreams Made Of? received six prestigious Children’s Awards, including an endorsement from KidsFirst, and was considered for Best Children’s Album in the 56th Grammy Awards. What’s more, it recently debuted as a staged reading at San Carlos Children’s Theater in the San Francisco Bay Area and was received with much acclaim.
Sniderman, or Aoede, is a truly enchanting musician with great depth and an even greater imagination. Learn more about her below and at aoedemuse.com.
WiMN: What are your primary instruments?
LS: I am a singer first, so vocals. People have told me I have a quirky high soprano voice :). Then acoustic guitar and ukulele. I compose on guitar, uke and piano mainly. When performing live, I sing and accompany myself on acoustic guitar and uke primarily!
WiMN: When was your first contact with music?
LS: Oh my gosh! Really, it was when I was a small child listening to my records on my record player. I can still remember Disney’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” singing me to sleep… The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, “Peter And The Wolf,” Free To Be You and Me, even my parents folk records and of course playing early instruments around the house: harmonica, tambourine, recorders, and dulcimers! I have always loved music, both listening and playing it. My first instrument was violin when I was in 4th grade, followed by saxophone in 5th.
WiMN: You are a multi-talented, award-winning artist. What of all the art forms you create would you say is your favorite and why?
LS: My favorite is by far creating musical stories because of the opportunity to combine multiple art forms: telling stories and writing and recording music. I love challenging myself and going outside my comfort zone by writing a script; creating a compelling story, a fantasy world and characters and then letting the characters show me what they might be like musically.
I just had What Are Dreams Made Of? (WADMO) debut as a staged reading at San Carlos Children’s Theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I might also add adapting these musical stories to musical theater to the mix. It was such an amazing experience to see how 14 dynamic actors from 6th through 12th grade interpreted the characters and the songs, and to receive feedback from a receptive audience.
WiMN: Walk us through your creative process of playwriting.
LS: For my last story WADMO, a meld of magic, mythology and musical, I focused on a theme with which I’m sure tweens, teens and adults alike have strong associations: dreams.
Aoede the Muse has a bad dream (a nyxmare -nightmare), and she must go overland and underworld where she meets goblins, fairies, and dream gods and struggles to get to the heart of her dream. I imagined a bureaucratic department of dreams filled with dream takers, dream builders, dream makers, dream chasers. I envisioned a dark witch/siren that plagued Aoede in her nyxmare and spirited away children. I pictured an underworld in the Land of Dreams of dark caves inhabited by creatures such as goblins.
I researched Greek mythology and learned about the real dream gods, the Oneiroi: Phoebetor, Phantasos and Morpheus, the Land of Dreams and sirens. I even researched goblin lore to determine traits and characteristics. I wrote the story and music together, each informing the other. I collaborated with my producer who in addition to orchestrating and engineering the project, also worked with over 30 amazing musicians and voice over artists who contributed to the project. I also worked with a wonderful illustrator who breathed life into the characters!
To adapt it to theater, I went back to the script and identified changes for a visual audience, such as removing the narrator and giving the lines to stage direction and other characters, or adding more character development and conflicts. This is just the first step and work will continue!
WiMN: What is your primary goal when composing music?
LS: Feel it! Be authentic. Don’t try to play editor or censor anything during the flow of ideas – musically or lyrically. I tend to work with melodies and some lyrical ideas together. Especially for the musical stories, I try not to pay attention to genre or style and instead let my muse flow and take me where she wants. In this case, each character has their song, and I am simply a conduit for that to happen. I want the end result to be songs that are compelling, honest and believable and make the listener reflect, feel something and ideally to enable a connection with me through my music.
WiMN: Can you tell us about your character Aoede The Muse?
LS: I’ve learned that the same characteristics of my quirky folk pop music that appeal to adults also appeal to kids. Aoede often sings bright, whimsical, childlike tunes, like “Fairy Tale Love.” And then I started wondering what if Aoede sang the same kinds of songs but I added a storyline around them and her. What if I mixed mythology and magic and made her the protagonist? What if Aoede the Muse had adventures in a magical kingdom called Wonderhaven? Thus Aoede the Muse was born. Aoede the Muse hails from Olympus. She was the first Muse of Song before the other nine muses, and the name Aoede means “song.”
In WADMO, Aoede is the newest muse of song in the magical Kingdom of Wonderhaven. She is youthful despite her years and perpetually looks 17. Aoede has a traumatic past. In Olympus, Aoede hated having to go along with everything the gods commanded – especially her having to punish gods or mortals who dared challenge the gods. Her nyxmare of both a siren and missing children hits too close to home and causes her extreme anguish and anxiety. She is torn between doing nothing and feeling powerless to call the shots.
In my first musical story, Is Love A Fairy Tale? (Sept. 2012), Aoede the Muse goes on a search for love in Wonderhaven, where she meets colorful characters who each tell her something about love.
WiMN: Your most recent work is What Are Dreams Made Of? What sets it apart from other materials you’ve released?
LS: As I note, I am a quirky folk pop artist and singer-songwriter. Before 2012, I had written and recorded songs and released traditional albums such as Skeletons of the Muse (April 2012). I started creating musical stories (basically fairy tale musicals on audiobooks) in 2012 for tweens and young adults – both unique for the content and the audience.
For Is Love A Fairy Tale? I set out to create a compelling fairy tale story for tweens. I had much of the music from Skeletons and realized many of the songs related to the theme of love. I wrote additional songs for the main characters that became duets with Aoede on her journey to find love.
Unlike Is Love A Fairy Tale?, WADMO is a much darker story and journey and should appeal to more mature tweens and teens-fans of Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games. Additionally, WADMO enabled me to grow as a playwright and artist. The musicianship and contributions from voiceover actors and narrator were stellar, and the collaboration with my producer, who also orchestrated all of the music, resulted in a well-produced, unique and inventive listening experience, multi-award-winning album and now stage play. Further, WADMO was just staged for children’s musical theater.
WiMN: You’ve had some challenges throughout your career but have come out strong. Tell us about your rare auto-immune disease and what you’re doing to support research.
LS: I have been dealing with a rare auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis since April 2008. It is a progressive muscle weakness disease affecting stamina, energy, skin, and muscles, and I manage it through treatments, a slower pace and a lot of naps.
The worst of it was a flare in 2010 when I was hospitalized for 24 days. When I left the hospital unable to walk, all I wanted to do was get music out, to express and connect with people. I discovered music is my lifeline and I just can’t stop creating. I focused much more on online social networks for connection, and on writing, recording and licensing music rather than on live performances. I found that when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, it opened doors for others to tell their stories-for me to be a muse in ways I had never expected.
I have partnered with CureJM, the kid version of the same disease I have, to raise awareness through telling my story, performing and other support. The latest is creating a music video for my song “Perfect Day” that will feature CureJM warriors as superheroes. Proceeds from the song will also go to CureJM. I will also lead a session on using art and music as a healing path for tweens at the upcoming CureJM conference, focusing on the theme of superhero.
WiMN: What are some of the accolades you’ve received through your career?
LS: Oh my Gosh – here are the highlights! 13th Independent Music Awards Nominee-Best Children’s Song -“Fairy Tale Love”; International Songwriting Competition (ISC) 2013 Finalist, 2012 Winner-Children’s Music-“Fairy Tale Love”; John Lennon Songwriting Contest 2013, 2012 Finalist; 2013 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Nomination; 2013 NAPPA FamilyFaves Winner; LA Music Awards-2012 Children’s Album of the Year; Indie Music Channel Awards (2014, 2013, 2012), Artists in Music Awards (2012).
What Are Dreams Made Of? (Sept. 2013) received six prestigious Children’s Awards, including an endorsement from KidsFirst, and was considered for Best Children’s Album in the 56th Grammy Awards. What Are Dreams Made Of? screenplay is an official selection of the 2014 Beverly Hills Film Festival and is being adapted to children’s musical theater.
Is Love A Fairy Tale? (Sept. 2012) is recipient of four Children’s Awards, including an endorsement from KidsFirst, and was considered for Best Children’s Album in the 55th Grammy Awards. “Fairy Tale Love” music video is a winner and official selection in The Indie Gathering and The Indie Fest film festivals.
WiMN: Let’s wrap up with your favorite quote.
LS: Lately I am resonating with these:
“In every moment you have the choice to be a victim or a creator.” – Deepak Chopra
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson