Monika Lawrence's Portfolio
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
An aspiring jazz guitarist at 22, performing around the US, in Europe, and Japan, Minnesota born Sam Miltich experienced a serious psychotic breakdown and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. More than a decade later, he is back on stage. He is now married, has two sons, and feels he can handle his mental illness. It was not easy to get there. Apart from a long search for the right treatment, he found strength in his music and the music of Thelonious Monk, who also suffered from mental illness. On his “Improvised Life” tour through rural Minnesota in 2019 with his marvelous temporary band, they did not just play jazz, but Miltich also openly talked about his personal journey, and encouraged his audience that overcoming mental illness is possible. On assignment for MPR News May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, concert, band, Improvised Life tour
Sam Miltich, right, has selected a group of three musicians to form a jazz band for his Improvised Life project, left to right: drummer Nathan Norman, bassist Chris Bates, and saxophonist Dave Karr. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
After a long struggle to accepting his diagnosis and finding the right treatment for it, Sam Miltich also found inspiration and encouragement in the lives of other musicians who suffered from mental illness, such as Thelonious Monk. During the Improvised Life tour, Sam plays songs by Monk as well as own compositions. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
Sharing his own personal experience and daily challenges with schizophrenia, Sam Miltich hopes to encourage people in the audience who also suffer from mental illness, or their relatives and friends, that recovery is possible. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Nathan Norman; jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
A native of Washington, DC, Nathan Norman has had a long and successful career in performing, recording, and teaching jazz music. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Dave Karr; jazz; concert, mental health, Improvised Life tour
Dave Karr plays “Martha’s Dream”, a piece that Sam Miltich composed for a friend. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Chris Bates; jazz; concert, mental health, Improvised Life tour
Chris Bates performing a solo on his bass. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
Sam Miltich engages with the audience during his concert in Bemidji.
Some time before the concert, Sam lost his hearing in the left ear, which was another scary experience for him, especially but not only as a musician. Though he has regained some of his hearing, he currently protects his ears during concerts with noise-cancelling headphones.
May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, audience, concert, Improvised Life tour
Audience enjoying the jazz concert with Sam Miltich and band. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; mental health, audience, Improvised Life tour
During the intermission, Sam Miltich (center) continues to engage with the audience. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Chris Bates, Nathan Norman, jazz; mental health, concert, Improvised Life tour
Nathan Norman (front) and Chris Bates are getting ready for the next song.
Minnesota; Bemidji; jazz; mental health, Chris Bates, Improvised Life tour
Chris Bates plays the bass during the public concert at the Rail River Folk School. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.
Minnesota; Bemidji; Sam Miltich; jazz; band, mental health, Improvised Life tour
The Improvised Life project is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a 2018 Arts Tour grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. May 2, 2019, Bemidji. Minn.

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