Meet Upstander Bridget Barkan

Singer, songwriter and featured Upstander Legacy Celebration performer shares how music (as well as positivity) creates a culture powerful enough to stand up to bullying.

Portrait of Bridget Barkan

The Tyler Clementi Foundation is thrilled to announce that singer, songwriter, actress, and performance artist Bridget Barkan will perform at this year’s Upstander Legacy Celebration on Monday, November 14th. Read on to learn more about Bridget and how her song “Danger Heart” can change hearts and minds.

As a life-long actress, did you always know you wanted to perform music?
It all started with music for me. It was the sounds of my songwriter father having rehearsals in the living room or playing piano and writing songs. It would make me dance and sing along. I loved classical music and opera and, of course, musicals. I believe it was always music that led me to the art of performance. I have audio tapes of me at 3 years old, improvising story songs for hours. I actually called them “Bridget’s Story Songs.” I think being able to express myself and feel others’ expressions in a musical way is experiencing some kind of magic, some celestial moment.

TCF believes in the power of music to change hearts and mind. We think you do, too! Tell us about a performance or song that helped change you, or perhaps helped shape you as an artist.
There are two moments in my life that I think defined what music and performance can manifest and evolve within us for me and what I wanted to create with it. One, was seeing Lily Tomlin’s one woman show Search for signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. There is this one moment, at the very end of the show, after we are taken on this journey of characters, through heartbreak, revolution and questions about human consciousness and a giant mirror comes down and covers the whole stage so that the audience was actually looking at themselves. There was an awakening I felt, that it was about “us,” that it was about human emotion connecting us all together and that the people were the art. It blew my mind. Funny enough, the other moment is also connected to this idea of reflection. When I first heard Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” That song was on repeat for months. I love art that opens us up to the universal connection and that can lead to personal or communal healing.

Tile for Bridget Barkan“Danger Heart” is a powerful anthem in support of individuality, to standing strong when others look to hold you down (see it below). Will you share with us the inspiration behind it?
It was written about one of my best friends and collaborators, Dusty Childers. He told me a story about growing up as a young, gay boy in South Carolina. He described this one moment with his father that completely had me in tears. They were driving in his Dad’s pick up truck when his father turned down the radio and told him that he knew life was going to be tough for him where they lived so he was taking him to buy clothes for school. Button down shirts, polo shirts, khaki pants. He told him that he just had to make it through high school, then leave this town and never look back. But he told him that he loved him no matter what and that he could rely on him. Dusty did leave his hometown and can be seen throughout New York City in the most beautiful caftans and dresses, adorned with jewelry and headdresses. He truly has the biggest most beautiful ‘danger heart.’ But the song started to take on a lot of meaning, even for me and my own struggles and what I am fighting for in my life. Also, connecting to so many different people and their journey of being “outsiders” or feeling unaccepted or in actual danger for being who they are. It connected to the transgender community, to Black Lives Matter, to abuse and rape survivors, to people struggling with addiction and beyond. It’s truly for all people who are fighting for love, loving for love and standing for what they believe in.

“Danger Heart” makes a reference to being 18. Knowing how the internet can amplify bullying language and behavior, what advice do you wish someone would give today’s 18 year-olds to help keep them safe and kind online?
I have been working with teens in detention for the last year, doing songwriting workshops. I began using the principles of Peace, Love and Power. Speak with peace, act with love and together, we create power. And these are the intentions we set for the songs we write. This would be the intention I would put forth to all youth for the song that is their life. It’s difficult because the online culture is full of constant criticism. This platform which is an opportunity for complete expression is empowering in some ways and then, also very harmful. We have the freedom to critique our government or police forces, but then, the cruelty can be so overwhelming. I think if we can create a way for people (not just teens, but all people) to see themselves in others, this can help the movement for inclusion and community. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule never fails. I also think I would share with them the very important need to disconnect from social media and get back into the real world. I believe we lose compassion the more we stay stuck behind a screen.

Don’t miss your chance to catch Bridget live! Buy your ULC tickets before the event is sold out.

Can’t attend? Make a gift in honor of Bridget to help us end bullying!

Bridget Barkan is a native New Yorker who has been working since birth. From childhood, Barkan has been inspired by both the stage shows of Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin and Laurie Anderson and the music of artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Erykah Badu. As a singer, Barkan has toured the world with pop/glam band the Scissor Sisters, opening for Lady Gaga, sung with Lily Allen, and recorded with legendary house DJ and producer Todd Terry in addition to releasing her own albums and singles. Follow Bridget Barkan on Facebook, Twitter or visit her website.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.