Concert Series to Raise Awareness About Epilepsy

By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant

Carolina Barcelos Carneiro de Oliveira Miller, on the left with her husband Eric Miller. Photo courtesy of Eric Miller.

Carolina Barcelos Carneiro de Olivera Miller may have kept a long battle with epilepsy private since her diagnosis as a teenager, but her death has led her husband, Eric Miller, to shine a spotlight on the disease that took his wife’s life.

After witnessing his wife struggle with epilepsy, Miller started the Candlelight Concert Series for Epilepsy Awareness, as a memorial concert dedicated to Carolina, who passed away from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). This year Miller will be hosting his third concert series featuring various musical acts.

“When Carolina passed away, neither of us was aware of the risks that epilepsy could be fatal,” said Miller. “Since launching this series, this is a sentiment I have tragically heard resonated far too many times from others who have lost a loved one as a result of epilepsy.”

According to the Candlelight Concert website, Carolina suffered from seizures which occurred once every few years. She took medication to suppress them.

After her death, Miller decided to start the candlelight concert series not only to honor his wife’s memory but to raise awareness about the disease while spreading the message through music.

Miller first began the concert series as a single memorial concert back in August 2011, featuring artists and musicians that had a significance in their relationship. Miller says that he recognized the success from his first event and that there’s an ongoing need for awareness about epilepsy. So he converted the one concert event into a concert series.

One of the musical acts at a previous Candlelight Concert for Epilepsy Awareness. Photo courtesy of Eric Miller.

At first, Miller began organizing the concerts from his house and would webcast them. The series found a new home after Brian Joyce of Trinity UMC in Ewing reached out and offered the 300-seat church for Miller to use. Since then, Miller has been hosting his annual concert series from Ewing.

Since starting the concert series, it has grown to have not only musical acts but guest speakers. Past speakers include Liza Gundell, director of the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey, and Tony Coelho, executive board member for the Epilepsy Foundation of America.

Speakers have been invited to talk about topics surrounding the disease and tips on how to respond when someone has a seizure.

Miller has also been able to raise money for epilepsy and has donated those proceeds to the Epilepsy Foundation, but that’s not his main goal.

“My motivation is not one of fundraising. It has always been primarily to raise awareness and in using the power of music to do so,” Miller said. “To date, I’ve funded these entirely out of my own pocket and always at a loss. Should there be proceeds — and I’m really hoping there will be with these big names upcoming — they would go to the Epilepsy Foundation.”

The concert series has been ongoing since early 2012, according to Miller, and about 114 events have been hosted throughout 50 states. The event in Ewing is the flagship to the concert series, and it’s the one that Miller runs.

Candlelight Concert for Epilepsy Awareness performer Ed Kowalczyk. Photo courtesy of Eric Miller.

The upcoming concert series in Ewing is set to begin on March 27 with Ed Kowalczyk followed by other concerts put on by Living Colour on April 4, Joan Osborne on April 11 and Paula Cole on April 27.

Kowalczyk says he is grateful for the opportunity and looks forward to the concert.

“I am excited to perform at the Epilepsy Benefit Series,” said Kowalczyk. “Anytime I’m given the opportunity to weave a charitable effort into what I do creatively like this, I consider it a gift.”

Meanwhile for Miller, having various musical acts be a part of his mission to spread awareness allows him to reach out to a wider audience.

“The focus is and will always be on reaching people,” Miller said. “When I book a guy like Ed Kowalczyk, I certainly reach bigger, broader and diverse audiences. In aggregate, think of how many people get even the basic facts about epilepsy through these artists performing as part of this series. It also raises the profile of the cause and hopefully inspires those in the epilepsy community to have these talents supporting us.”

With the concert series in Ewing set to begin its third annual run, Miller hopes more people learn about epilepsy.

“The biggest thing is hoping to change minds when it comes to epilepsy,” said Miller. “I look at things like Susan G. Komen and autism awareness efforts and work with the hopes to have epilepsy follow a similar path in terms of public consciousness.”