We had the good fortune of connecting with Vivienne Aerts and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Vivienne, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Being originally from the Netherlands, my background and upbringing have had a significant impact on shaping who I am today. I’ve studied choir conducting at the conservatory, while also pursuing a degree in Clinical Psychology at Leiden University. After working for a couple of years as a psychologist and choir conductor, I decided to move to the USA to study voice and composition at Berklee College of Music. After graduating I got involved in the jazz and experimental music scenes in New York, and started the ‘Vervool experience, a bespoke multi-sensory experience launched with my pastry chef husband, in which we explore different artistic avenues and try to push our boundaries.

All this led to my recent collaboration with Original Beans Chocolate and their “Femmes de Virunga project” and my decision to be an ambassador for their cause. Talking with Philipp Kauffmann, the founder, I was inspired by their passion for sustainability, community, and rehabilitation. The Femmes de Virunga is a cacao farm collective of 1500 women in Virunga State Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The collective, initiated and supported in 2008 by Original Beans, gave women the tools and opportunities to overcome extreme hardship and political unrest. These women, often victimized and routinely left to undertake hard agricultural labor, were empowered through literacy campaigns and leadership training, invited to cultivate cacao, and set up a tree nursery. In cultivating this crop, they cultivate their communities. Continued learning, regenerative farming, and a stable ‘living wage’ from Original Beans enables them to elevate their standard of living.

For a long time, it has been my mission to create something positive in this world, to be a ‘light’. This was a desire nurtured in me by my parents who are always there for their community, who volunteer whenever they can. They are such positive and loving people that I learned so much from. So when I heard about the story behind this Chocolate, I wanted to use my music to raise awareness of this project. I wanted to use my music, not to inspire charity but to match their entrepreneurial spirit and generate business, “Let’s make an album that sells their chocolate.” And of course, chocolate and music are a bit of a magical combination, right?

Because I’m celebrating the women that make the cacao, I decided to make an album that also showcases the many talented female professionals in the music industry. Like a collective voice, a “Hi! We are here and we are creating amazing art, music, and connections.” So I got to work. Two years in the making the album “Typuhthang” [pronounce: type-of-thing] was released in March and has been well received. I wanted to make an album by women in support of women which reflects my values of inclusivity, empowerment, and sustainability. But, I think I made an album that is about everybody. This is about connecting people and making the world just a little bit better. I think this album has a synergy, where one plus one equals three. It is bigger than the sum of its parts and it is bigger than me. I hope it can help people by channeling positivity in a sometimes cynical world.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a Dutch New York-based vocalist, conductor, and composer with a focus on electronics, chocolate, and multi-sensory experience design. My background has fostered a multidimensional approach to my artistry, emphasizing the importance of creativity, empathy, and making a positive impact in the world. I perform as a singer and pianist with different groups as well as with my own projects. An example is my multi-sensory performance experience ‘Vervool’ with my pastry chef husband which combines improvisational music and haute cuisine desserts. Besides this, I am a faculty member at Berklee College of Music where I’ve been instrumental in building a new generation of performers who are not only skilled musicians but also mentally and physically healthy individuals.

When it comes to my art, I believe what sets me apart is the fusion of my diverse background and passions. As a trained choir conductor, psychologist, and jazz vocalist, I bring a unique perspective and blend of influences to my music. My songs often have an earworm quality, with lyrics that touch upon themes of finding one’s path and hope.

What I am most proud of and excited about is my third and most recent album Typuhthâng [pronounced as type-of-thing]. Together with 100 next-generation female musicians, and in collaboration with Original Beans Chocolate, Typuhthâng revolves around the themes of women and chocolate, serving as a musical exchange that empowers the remarkable female cacao farmers of Virunga State Park in Congo and replants the rainforest. Because of my husband, world-class pastry chef Ted Steinebach, ‘Typuhthâng’ is a collaboration with Original Beans Chocolate – whose project in the heart of Virunga State Park in Congo aims to empower the 1500 women who are managing, operating and growing a cocoa farm and tree nursery. When ordered physically, fans will get a bar of “Original Beans Femmes de Virunga” with every purchase of the album.

For the music, I had the privilege of hiring immensely talented female musicians during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The album features 3 sampled soundscapes and 6 original songs with arrangements by myself, Zahili Gonzalez Zamora, Ines Velasco Montiel, Ga Young Bae, Linnea Lundgren, Camila Meza and Mariel Roberts as well as performances by 100 female musicians from over 40 countries. The songs featured in ‘Typuhthâng’ are meant to empower women in a male-dominated industry to participate in every role of the project including performing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering. Through Typuhthâng, my ultimate goal is to foster a collective awareness of sustainability and female empowerment. I firmly believe that by working together, we can create a better world.

Getting to where I am today professionally has not been easy. Like any artist, I have faced setbacks and obstacles along the way. However, I have always remained dedicated to my creative projects and chosen to prioritize myself amidst the demands of everyday life. Letting go and taking risks, even if it meant potentially losing everything, has been a crucial part of my journey. It was through these challenges and leaps of faith that I have been able to grow and evolve as an artist. The lessons I have learned include the importance of perseverance, authenticity, and embracing the unexpected. It’s vital to stay true to oneself and not compromise one’s art for anyone. I’ve also discovered that by connecting with others, respecting differences, and sharing the journey, we can create something bigger than ourselves.

Ultimately, I believe that life is meant to be lived fully, embracing both setbacks and triumphs. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, and I’m excited to keep evolving as an artist, making a positive impact through my art.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Whenever I visit a city I always try to check out their botanical garden. If you want to get touristy, check out the Angels Flight Railway, Grand Central Market, Bradbury Building, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Capitol Studios, the last bookstore, the Urban Light and Griffith Observatory.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I love to give a shoutout to my husband Teddy who is not only an amazing pastry chef but also a wonderful person whose light brightens every room he enters. His unwavering optimism, kindness, and love have taught me invaluable lessons, shaping me into the person I am today. Our journey together has been nothing short of extraordinary. Working side by side, we’ve delved into the depths of creativity, passionately discussing our respective crafts and creating cherished memories along the way. Teddy’s unwavering support has been essential in helping me pursue my music, enabling me to keep my creative flame burning. We explore the intricate dance between pastry-making and music, finding common ground in the artistry of our chosen paths. As Teddy weaves magic with ingredients, I’m inspired to weave melodies and lyrics that touch the hearts of others. Our parallel creative processes intertwine, creating a symphony of love, art, and inspiration. Teddy’s support has been unwavering, standing as an unyielding pillar of strength by my side. Through the ups and downs, he believes in me and my dreams, empowering me to conquer any challenge.

Website: https://vivienneaerts.nl/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vieffertje/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vivienne-aerts-b8905617/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VivienneAertsFanpage

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/VivienneAerts

Other: https://vivienne.bandcamp.com/

Image Credits
Trudy Giordano Art Altman

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