Posted on June 2, 2019 at 5:05 am
Three years ago, I got a call from Michael McElroy of Broadway Inspirational Voices, asking me if I would participate in an outreach that BIV was doing with the Ronald McDonald House. I said yes immediately, and was introduced to Josie, an eleven-year-old girl with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. My job was to write a song about Josie that the Broadway Inspirational Voices would perform at a special event in October 2016.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (or OI, as it is called in the medical community) is a disability which makes Josie’s bones weak and easily breakable. What was not so easily breakable was Josie’s spirit – she came across as a joyful, spirited pre-teen, very much like my oldest daughter, who was the same age as Josie and just as sassy. Josie wasn’t focused on her disability, she was focused on being a kid – school and music and friends and her family and basketball. After several meetings with Josie, I still wasn’t sure what to write – what could encapsulate her without focusing on this one thing that was, for her, such a small part of who she was?
When I finished my final meeting with Josie, her mom turned to me and thanked me for agreeing to write a song for the event. She said, “I think Josie just doesn’t want to be invisible.” And with that, I suddenly knew what I had to write.
The song I wrote, “Invisible,” is on my album, How We React and How We Recover – you can hear the album version here or you can watch this fun video that I made with the folks at MusicNotes:
Several months after the song’s premiere (gorgeously sung by Anastacia McCleskey,) I got asked to perform it at the Ronald McDonald House gala that year with Josie herself sharing the stage with me. This is obviously not a great quality video, but I loved getting to rock out with Josie (and Gary Sieger on guitar):
Anyway, since those first performances, “Invisible” has made its way into the world, showing up in high school and college choirs and in beautiful performances like this one from Broadway Dreams Philadelphia last summer, not to mention my own performances, where I often preface the song with the story about its origin. But honestly, I haven’t really kept in touch with Josie or known what was going on with her since I last saw her in 2017. So I was absolutely delighted to find an essay online tonight, which shows that Josie is not just thriving and growing, but she’s also a sensational thirteen-year-old writer. Here’s my favorite sentence:
“Within the four walls at National Dance Institute (NDI) in Harlem New York, I see kids who are differently abled getting to know each other, making friendships that will last forever.”
You can read all of Josie’s great essay here, and there’s another wonderful piece of her writing online called “The Girl Behind The Wheelchair.” I’m thrilled to see Josie coming into her own as a dancer, as a writer, and as a teenager, and I’m so proud to have written a song that captures what I think is most amazing about her – her indomitable spirit. Rock on, Josie, and thank you for inspiring a song I love so much!