Take two aspiring singer-songwriters, add a dose of community spirit, mix in being touched by breast cancer, and you get two fabulous babes rocking a great fundraising endeavour.
Ana Miura (32) and Amanda Rheaume (30) met nine years ago at an open-mike night at Grace O’Malley’s restaurant. They bonded over admiration for singer Ani DiFranco and have used their love of music on a journey to raise money for Babes4Breasts. Ana founded the organization in 2003 when she felt she could no longer stand back and watch what this disease was doing to her inner circle.
As its executive director and Boss Babe, Ana started concert tours to promote the cause, together with Amanda, who joined her a few years later, they have toured with over fifty musicians including Stef Lang, Leela Gilday, Annabelle Chvostek, Tanya Tagaq, Ann Vriend, Tara Holloway. Last year, they released a successful compilation CD, featuring 17 of the touring artists, who live across Canada. Now they are working on a new CD which is coming out later this year.
The B4B mandate has always been to focus on the human element to help people deal with their cancer journeys. So far, the organization has raised more than $50,000 and proceeds have gone to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s music therapy program at the Maplesoft Centre, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. Recently, the musicians created a Babes4Breasts endowment fund through the Community Foundation of Ottawa, with some funds going to the Queensway Carleton Hospital’s Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Breast Health Imaging Suite to buy state-of-the-art machines and equipment. Both women feel fortunate to have found their path through music, while using their talents to give back to a cause that has touched and motivated them to make a difference. OAH: Who came up with the Breast4Babes name? ANA: I had some names and brought them to Breast Cancer Action Ottawa. They shared them with some of the women in their groups with breast cancer and they chose the name. OAH: When did you know that music would be your career? ANA: I won the best song award at the Songs From the Heart competition promoted by the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals when I was 23 years old, and started believing that someone other than my family thought I could be a singersongwriter.
AMANDA: I was fifteen when I participated in Lilith Fair. Watching Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan perform, I knew I wanted to be just like them.
OAH: Ana, describe Amanda’s music. ANA: Authentic. Organic. Intense. Driven. Melodic. OAH: Amanda, describe Ana’s.
AMANDA: Thoughtful. Warm. Shmoopy. Genuine. Intimate. OAH: Who would you like to open for? ANA: Patty Griffin.
AMANDA: Sheryl Crow. OAH: Your perfect audience? ANA: A darkened hall with a spotlight on me for the attentive soft seaters who sit in comfortable chairs, like Southam Hall at the NAC.
AMANDA: An interactive show where you share stories about the songs and where they come from. OAH: How has your music changed? ANA: My songs are more mature now. When I was younger I put out a lot of feelings. It is a more thoughtful period of time now. AMANDA: I started playing acoustic and writing songs when I was 15 and moved on to writing rock songs. The song and the lyrics are the most important part. I now write more about other people’s stories and interesting people that I meet in my travels. OAH: Musician you admire? ANA: Bruce Cockburn is incredible – the most interesting person at the party you want to talk to. Sharing a stage with him in a song circle is definitely one of my musical highlights.
AMANDA: Chantal Kreviazuk. She is so comfortable on stage and can make you laugh and cry. Also, all of the inspiring touring musicians I meet on the road. They get up, go to the gig, do their thing and keep believing.
Ana Miura( left) and Amanda Rheaume.