When measuring the impact of wars and natural disasters, it’s convenient and comfortable for us to use numbers.
Numbers don’t bleed.
Numbers don’t suffer.
Numbers don’t cry.
Hurricanes deserve names like Gloria, Katrina and Sandy, but the victims of those violent storms often remain anonymous and abstract. That way, we can keep them at a distance and our lives don’t have to be touched by their misery.
It also gives us a sense of safety. As long as adversity does not come too close, we can go on with our lives and run our business as usual. Today, that’s not going to happen because I’d like you to meet a remarkable woman who’s lost most of what she’s worked for in a superstorm.
Patrice Devincentis is a part-time lecturer in music appreciation and production at Bergen Community College, she teaches piano and she plays keyboards in the classic rock cover band Black Night. She also owns and operates Sonic Surgery, an audio production studio in Union Beach, N.J. Here she records, edits, mixes and masters, working with musicians and voice-over talent.
As we approached Union Beach on the way to her house, it was as if we had entered a war zone. The National Guard was everywhere. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles were rushing on and off. Hundreds of cars were waiting in line at the few gas stations that still had fuel.
Closer to the ocean, some structures were barely standing. The roads were covered in sand and dirt. Mountains of garbage and debris were piling up. It was a stinking mess.
Life hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Patrice. A few years ago, she lost her husband to a dreadful disease and after his passing, cancer nearly took her own life. During her illness, her employer let her go and it became increasingly hard to stay afloat financially and emotionally, all the while raising her preteen daughter. Her home and her garage-studio became an anchor in uncertain times.
MIRACLES AND MISERY
Cutting back on all expenses -including flood insurance- Patrice pulled off a miracle: she worked incredibly hard and gradually built her life and her health back up. Last July she could even burn her mortgage. But the joy over what she had accomplished didn’t last long.
Three months later, Hurricane Sandy pounded the Jersey shore and Patrice’s house and studio were flooded with salty Atlantic sea water. In a matter of minutes, thousands of dollars worth of musical instruments, hard- and software and pro audio equipment were drowned and rendered useless.
When I opened the studio door a few days later, the rotting smell of growing mold was already noticeable. The insulation between the walls had soaked up and retained the water. The top of the Yamaha Grand was missing, and the sound booth was filled with flood refuse. Slimy mud covered the floor.
A broken cinema display had fallen on the mixing table, and muddied Kurzweil, Korg and Roland keyboards were scattered over the studio. Monitors, microphones, equalizers, de-noisers, compressors, digital recorders, preamps… you name it: everything under the water line was ruined, including a top-of-the line PA system.
On October 30th, Patrice wrote on her Facebook page:
“Sonic Surgery and my music career have died a very watery death.”
Well, a few of her friends decided not to let that happen. Nine of them joined forces and came to Union Beach, armed with a generator, face masks, gloves, plastic bags and demolition tools. The goal was to get the house and studio dry before the mold would make it a health hazard. It took us a day to rip out the wet floors, to open up the walls and to completely empty the studio.
Had you not known any better, you would have thought that Sonic Surgery was holding a yard sale that day. Unfortunately, all the electronics, the instruments, the gear and the furniture were worthless and not covered by insurance.
FEMA STEPS IN
On the day the president was touring the Jersey shore, a man from FEMA stopped by to assess the damage. He looked at the studio and came back with a number. A very low number.
“You can’t be serious,” said Patrice. “I would never be able to refurnish and equip my studio for that amount. How did you even arrive at that number?”
“It’s simple,” said the man. “This is a garage. I can see it was modified, but it still is a garage.”
So, what’s next for Patrice and Sonic Surgery? For the time being, she can use the studio at Bergen Community College to record, but that’s not a permanent solution. She can still serve her clients, but only to a certain extent. At some point, she plans to return home and rebuild her studio from the ground up. It’s not going to be easy and she can’t do it on her own.
That’s why we -her friends- come to you for help. Let’s see what we can do to get Sonic Surgery up and running again!
Perhaps you have equipment lying around that’s just collecting dust. Perhaps you bought too much acoustic foam and you want to get rid of it. Do you have a mic stand that you haven’t used in ages? What about that microphone you just replaced?
Maybe you have a contact in the recording industry who might be able to help. Maybe you know a pro-audio provider that would be willing to donate gear to a good cause.
If that’s the case, please get in touch with me. Spread the word. Help a deserving colleague in need.
You can also help in other ways. We have set up a GoFundMe page for Patrice where you can make a monetary donation.
As I said in the beginning, in the aftermath of a natural disaster it is easy to be reduced to a number.
I don’t ever want that to happen to Patrice Devincentis.
Your help is much, much appreciated!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS You can reach me through my Contact Page.
Donations and offers of help came in from many corners and countries! Here’s Patrice’s response:
“WOW WOW WOW… THIS is like a dream come true. I am astonished at the generosity of strangers. This is outrageous and unbelievable. I am awed and incredibly humbled at the generosity. How do you say Thank you under these conditions??? “