Catching Up With Festival Wish-Granter Life Under the Wheel

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Music possesses an unparalleled power to comfort. An image can assure, a lyric can console. A fleeting moment of recognition can endure. Art can help those facing challenges attain a new balance of hope and empowerment.

 Life Under the Wheel, a nonprofit organization which gives people who have life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to attend music festivals, partnered with Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival in 2017 to award its first grant recipient.

Calvin Huang, a California resident diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, a fast-growing brain tumor, found respite from the treatment and the anxiety that comes with being sick.

“There have been occasional instances when I’ve kinda had an existential crisis,” Huang says. “During those times, music helps me break out of my negative [vibe], helps me calm myself down.”

At first reserved, Huang explored the festival grounds, sampled the food, laughed with strangers and danced to the music. Huang was most eager to see Gorillaz.

“We got him front of house passes,” says Elizabeth Pikaart, cofounder and director of operations for  Life Under the Wheel. “It was a good place to stand, right next to the soundboard.”

With its blend of colorful images and resonant sounds, a music festival is at once a place to both escape and to feel a part of something larger. “He just wanted to have a good weekend and enjoy himself,” Pikaart says. “He just wanted some time to not worry.”

Pikaart and Life Under the Wheel cofounder Evan Gross have spent years working festivals all over the country. “Evan had worked with Life is Beautiful for four years, and I had also worked with them,” Pikaart says. “It is actually one of our favorite festivals. We just love everything it stands for and how it’s about celebrating life.”

Life Under the Wheel provides two event tickets, travel expenses and accommodations. It helped a Florida high school teacher diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer attend the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in March.

The organization is looking toward the future and hopes to return to Life is Beautiful in 2018.

“We are on track to do four or five festivals this year,” Pikaart says. “And in 2019, we will continue to steadily grow.”

Whether it retrieves a memory of a happier time, inspires hope for a better future or provides a caress of the spirit, music and art gatherings can nourish and heal.