From Menopause to Marijuana! …Peace to Politics! …Poignant to Provocative! …Ellen Bukstel writes and sings about it all! This type of happy-sad, life embracing, fear-overcoming emotional schizophrenia truly captures the spirit of modern independent music making—whatever the artist feels in that moment, she shares…and whatever else Ellen is, she’s not shy about it making her audience “sit up and think…laugh til they cry…and sometimes all at the same time!”
A veteran to the stage since childhood, she has been honored with close to 50 Songwriting and Music Video awards and acknowledgments since 2002 by such notable competitions such as John Lennon, Paul Stookey’s Music To life, New Zealand Int’l Peace Song, Breaking the Silence in Song, Kerrville NewFolk, just to name a few. And, her songs are making a huge difference in people’s lives.
Renowned as an activist who puts her passions to song, Ellen has been commissioned to write songs and produced numerous multiple award winning fundraising music videos which have collectively helped to raise almost one hundred million dollars since 2006 and are being used as tools to raise awareness of important social issues such as Housing the Homeless, Assistance Victims of Domestic Violence, Human Rights and care for Children with wide spectrum Autism and Elderly with Cerebral Deterioration.
Her songwriting journey began after losing her husband Doug Segal to AIDS in 1988. Doug was a hemophiliac who contacted HIV from his blood products and died at age 36 leaving Ellen with their three children Brett, Todd and Margo. Doug and Ellen spoke out publicly hundred of times sharing their personal story in schools, churches, synagogues, educating the community about AIDS.They also spoke to the “Presidents Commission on AIDS” when they came to her home town city, Miami, FL. Ellen was honored as a Torch Runner for the 1996 Olympics for her service to the community.
Ellen expresses her imagination with her beautiful voice, guitar and keyboard. Her award winning songs chronicle the joys and sorrows of a colorful tapestry still being woven…She conveys love and a depth of concern for the ever-increasing threats to our world and to our own individual rights. All this is related to the audience through a brave, though humorous and earthy connection between the world of musical performance and that of the social “bard” or “troubadour” from which the most powerful and relevant strand of folk music derives it’s roots. It’s not an act. It’s real.
A veteran to the stage since childhood and with close to 50 songwriting awards and acknowledgements to her credit, Ellen Bukstel Challenges her listeners to laugh, dig deep and embrace the wild emotional roller coaster we call life with every daring turn of phrase… a rare, bold, real deal maverick…a multi-faceted break the mold original that lays her emotions bare, puts her passions on the line and, without fear, makes the world perk up and pay attention. Drawing from a rich lifetime of personal experiences, she brings hope, laughter, tears, biting wit and inspiration to everything she records and performs.
A consummate artist whose community activism and musical vibe harkens back to the 60s–even as she addresses the world, often in provocative terms, very much in present tense inspiring and exciting fans with her straight talking, heart on her sleeve, from her soul to yours lyrics. Those who have heard her music—including the full sweep of the 15 tracks on her independent debut album Daddy’s Little Girl—quickly agree with pop superstar Michael Bolton, who calls Ellen “an amazing artist and spirit.” But they seriously have no idea whether to laugh or cry. The good news is, they can do both, drying their tears the minute she angles for their funny bone.
Frequently hilarious, she writes about everything from menopause and voting in South Florida, then tugs the heartstrings on poignant pieces about love and loss that try to find meaning in the world. On songs like “Wooden Box” and “Grow Up And Change The World,” she comes to terms as best she can with the tragedy that inspired her to begin her songwriting journey: losing her beloved husband Doug Segal, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and died in 1988 at age 36. For Bukstel, music has been a way of expressing her strong opinions—and while some reduce her listeners to tears, others come out hysterically funny.
This type of happy-sad, life embracing, fear-overcoming emotional schizophrenia truly captures the spirit of modern independent music making—whatever the artist feels in that moment, she shares…and whatever else Ellen is, she’s not shy about it.
It’s also won her a bucketful of high profile songwriting competitions over the years. Thirteen out of the fifteen songs on her Solo CD Daddy’s Little Girl have either won or have been awarded top honors in various prestigious songwriting competitions and some have been acknowledged multiple times.
She and her co-writer Nick Annis, were the International Winner in the 2010 New Zealand “Peace Song” Competition, a finalist in the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Competition, placed second in the 2009 Susequehanna Music & Arts Festival competition and won “Best Political Song of the Year” at the 2008 Hollywood Music Awards.
“By My Silence,” co-written with good friend and award-winning songwriter Nick Annis, is a gut-wrenching piece about the regret of keeping a fearful silence during the Holocaust. It won the 2008 Public Domain Foundation Music To Life songwriting competition, launched by Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) to discover songwriters who address important social issues. Some of the judges included folk legends Judy Collins, Janis Ian, Tom Paxton, John Stewart, Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers.
Two other tracks also placed in the Top 40 in that contest: “Tikkun Olam…Repair The World,” and “You’re Not Better Than Me,” a powerful anti-domestic violence song, which also won the prestigious 2008 Breaking The Silence In Song Competition judged by luminaries Michael Bolton, Ben E. King, Cissy Houston, Run-DMC and Warner Music VP Kevin Lyles. It has become the theme song for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Long time social activist Bolton says “Ellen Bukstel’s beautiful voice and poignant lyrics create an anthem and a voice for the thousands of survivors and victims of Domestic Violence who hopefully now know that they are not alone.”
Her songs are making a huge difference in people’s lives. Renowned as an activist who puts her passions to song, Ellen has been commissioned to write songs and produce numerous fundraising videos which have collectively helped to raise almost one hundred million dollars and are being used as tools to raise awareness of important social issues. Her first video production “Faces of Violence,” created for Jewish Community Services of Miami, features “You’re Not Better….” together with a photo study representing women and children in the community who are victims of domestic abuse has been a beacon and an inspiration for thousands of abused women nationwide.
For 50 year old Miami homeless shelter Camillus House’s $88 million campaign to build a new 340 bed facility, Ellen used her exceptional creative skills to write, film and produce her award-winning touching “Somebody’s Child,” which is set against vivid images of the homeless life in downtown Miami. For The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, she composed “Tikkun Olam” to help raise awareness and funds for the GMJF annual $24 million campaign.
Ellen’s competition accolades extend back to 2002, as a finalist in the New Folk Songwriting Competition at the world renowned Kerrville Folk Festival among many others. “Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Me?” co-written with good friend Nancy Wuerzburger, was included on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes #12 (cementing Bukstel’s stature as a musical satirist par excellence) as well as unique 2006 collection called Mamapalooza: Moms Who Rock.
Beyond the tearjerkers and the songs that have the power to change hearts, minds and society, Ellen has gained renown in political circles, as well, thanks to two of her most popular and incisive tunes, “Hey Mr. Politician” and “They Lost My Vote.” also co-written with Nancy Wuerzburger. In August of 2007, she “opened” for future Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, performing her political songs to a cheering crowd of 2,200 people. She has performed for many political organizations, including the League of Women Voters, National Organization for Women and has opened for keynote speaker, former Attorney General Janet Reno, at the South Florida Democratic Party Summit at Florida International University.
Currently making waves across the country is her song Who’s The Pusher Now? expressing her concerns about the hypocrisy of our federal government Drug Wars that incarcerated people for fallacious Marijuana laws, while at the same time providing legal protection for deadly pharmaceutical drugs that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Check it out. Share it.
Aside from partisan politics, Ellen’s activism and classic folk artist instincts have led her to write songs that can capture the true spirit of global harmony. Nominated and awarded the honor of carrying the 1996 Olympic Torch in Miami, she was inspired to write the highly inspirational “Raise The Torch,” which urges us all to “light the way for all the world to see/Call the world to lay down arms for solidarity.” Though she is very much in the “spiritual but not religious” camp, every year she shares her beautiful voice through the songs and liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Another element that defines Ellen’s life and career is her solid commitment to family and friends. A native of Miami and veteran to the stage since childhood, she and her younger brother Gary Bukstel began performing together when they were teenagers and later originated their first musical group Legacy in memory of Ellen’s late husband Doug. This dynamic “sibling” duo has been performing since the early 70s and their first CD, Somewhere in Time brims with a rich blend of vocal harmonies and captivating lyrics.
Ellen’s son, Todd Segal, a successful young film maker in LA, has been her co-producer as well and a creative and technical force behind her powerful music videos. She is also an executive producer of Todd’s film “Miles From Home,” which premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in addition to receiving many Film Festival awards from around the country. Visit www.OnPointProductions.com
Bukstel has also run the successful graphic design studio Design Workshop Group, Inc. since 1976 and has for years, along with her brother Gary and good friend and Latin Grammy winner Paul Hoyle, written commercial songs for MasterCard International. Visit www.DesignWorkshopGroupInc.com
Her eldest son, Brett Segal, is a recording engineer, drummer and songwriter and producer who runs Shack In The Back Productions, a recording studio, where he has produced numerous artists—including Ellen, who calls him her “right hand music man.” Aside from producing all her music, he occasionally performs with her on percussion and is a prolific songwriter as well. Visit www.ShackInTheBackProductions.com
Her youngest child, Margo Segal is not without her own exceptional talents. She is a wire art sculptor crafting everything from colorful full-size guitars to exquisite jewelry. Her amazing creations can be seen at www.GetWiredArt.com
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Ellen is a veteran to the stage since childhood. She studied and performed classical piano for many years, making her solo debut with the Miami Symphonic Orchestra at age 10. She later discovered her true musical passion as a teenager when she taught herself to play ukulele and then guitar. Many years later, her first original song, “Another Place In Time,” started as a poem called “Legacy Of Love” that she wrote to Doug just prior to his death. Co-written with good friend Paul Hoyle, the song was her first attempt to deal with her grief through music.
“A Wooden Box,” with the backdrop of an actual TV broadcaster announcing Doug’s death, walks us vividly down the painful and difficult road of a young widow and her three toddler children as they bury their father. Ellen’s song “Grow Up and Change the World” expresses the sentiments of a letter written by Doug to his children with a hopeful plea to keep his memory and values alive. During the two years of his illness, Ellen and Doug shared their story publicly together, educating literally thousands of people about AIDS by speaking out hundreds of times in the community. Due to their work, an AIDs Curriculum Guide was introduced in Miami-Dade County Public schools, which they presented to the President’s Commission on AIDS. They were invited by Congressman William Lehman to present testimony on AIDS before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education in Washington, DC.
Ellen has been an activist ever since, raising her three children, Todd, Brett and Margo, performing her music and speaking out publicly. This dedication and labors of love brought Ellen the honor of being chosen to carry the Olympic Torch for the 1996 Olympics and she shares the poignant tales of her fellow torch bearers in “Raise The Torch”.
Losing her father to Alzheimer’s Disease inspired her first solo song writing effort, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” which was chosen as a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s Newfolk song competition and three time honorable mention in the Woody Guthrie Song Competition. She affectionately refers to this song as her “good luck” song since it has consistently been recognized in many songwriting competitions across the country and helps to keep the memory of her father alive.
Summarizing her fascinating life, musical activities and her ability to cut through the fluff and aim straight for the heart or funny bone, Ellen says, “Pathos and humor touches people. People love to laugh. And when the opportunities to speak to issues through music and raise awareness and money for important causes came up, I realized that I had that other voice as well and I’ve enjoyed developing that aspect of my songwriting. I love the fact that my music is out there, reaching people and helping accomplish good things in my community and around the world.”
“After losing my husband to AIDS, I learned a lot about how I wanted to live the rest of my life,” she adds. “His untimely death was a wake-up call for me to live each day like it was my last. I think we all have a tendency to become complacent and not appreciate what we have. Every day is a blessing and an opportunity to do good things in the world.”
LIVE ON STAGE
MUSIC FESTIVALS / CONFERENCES: (in alpha order)
Deerfield Folk Festival Deerfield, FL
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists Showcase / Berkshires, NY
Florida Folk Festival Mainstage / White Springs, FL
Forida Earth Music and Heritage Festival Jonathan Dickenson State Park / Hobe Sound FL
Gamble Rogers Music Festival / St. Audustine, FL
Kerrville Folk Fest Music To Life Song Comp / Kerrville, TX
Kerrville Folk Fest New Folk Song Comp / Kerrville, TX
Kerrville Folk Fest Phil Ochs Tribute – Threadgill / Kerrville, TX
Lake County Folk Festiva / Eustis, FL
Lake Worth Music Fest / Lake Worth, FL
North Florida Folk Festival / Palm Coast, FL
Rattlesnake Festival / San Antonio, FL
Riverhawk Music Festival Mainstage / Brooksville, FL
Sarasota Folk Festival Festival Mainstage / Sarasota, FL
South Florida Folk Festival Mainstage (10 years) / Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Susquehanna Music & Arts Festival Song Competition / Havre De Grace, MA
University of Miami International Music Festival Concert / Miami, FL
Wildflower Music & Arts Festival Songwriting Competition / Brooksville, FL
Will McLean Folk Festival Mainstage / Brooksville, FL
Woodstock Folk Festival Mainstage / Woodstock, IL
REGIONAL FOLK ALLIANCE FORMAL SHOWCASES: (in alpha order)
FOLK ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL / Formal Showcase / Memphis, TN
NERFA / TriCentric Showcase / Kerhonkson, NY
NERFA / DJ Showcase / Kerhonkson, NY
NERFA / 2X Quad Centric Showcase / Kerhonkson, NY
SERFA / Formal Showcase / Montreat, NC
NOTABLE VENUES / EVENTS (in alpha order)
Americana Cafe, Roberts Hall Solo Concert / Lynn Haven, FL
Among Friends House Concert / Lakeland, FL
Arts Garage / Delray, FL
Beth Or Congregation Multiple Concerts / Miami, FL
Borderline Folk Club Solo Concert / New City, NY
Broward Center Performing Arts Songwriter Showcase / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Broward Community College Concert / Coconut Creek, FL
Buttopnwood Tree Solo Concert / Middletown, CT
Carroll Cafe, Tacoma Park / MD
Chocolate Mouse Coffeehouse Concerts / Davie, FL
Cindystock 9 / Pittsburgh, PA
Circle of Friends / Franklin, MA
Concert In The Keys / Big Pine Key, FL
Cooperage / Honesdale, PA
Dave & Mary Alper Jewish Community Center Concert / Miami, FL
Duncan Conference Center Concert / Delray Beach, FL
Emerald Concerts Open for Susan Werner / Hollywood, FL
European Street Cafe / Jacksonville, FL
European Street Cafe / Jacksonville Beach, FL
FAUFlorida Atlantic Univ. Open for Janet Reno-Democratic Summit / Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Fox Run House Concerts / Sudbury MA
Garden Folk Concerts / Lake Park, FL
Hard Rock Cafe / Hollywood FL
Hideaway Concert / St. Petersburg, FL
Hot Java Coffeehouse Concert / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Katherine Hepburn Theater Opened for Don Campbell / Old Saybrook, CT
Kravis Center Concert / West Palm Beach, FL
The Lighthouse-Temple Beth Or Concert / Miami, FL
LundyVille Featured Performer / Auburndale, FL
Main Stage, Kerrville Folk Fest Perform Winning Song / Kerrville, TX
Markham State Park South Florida Folk Festival Man Stg / Oakland Park, FL
Melody House Concerts / Beltsville, MD
Miami-Dade County Convention Center Open for Barack Obama / Miami, FL
Millbend Coffeehouse Solo Concert / Woodlands, TX
MOCA PLaza (Museum of Contemporary Art) / Miami FL
Mudville Music Room / Jacksonville, FL
New World Symphony Lincoln Theater Concert / South Beach, FL
New York Society for Ethical Culture / New York City, NY
Olivia’s Coffeehouse / Eustis, FL
Olney Theater Center Vic Heyman Tribute / Olney, MA
Oscar Scherer State Park Sarasota Folk Festival Headliner / Sarasota, FL
Osteen Diner Fundraiser / Osteen, FL
Panzer House Concerts Co-Bill w/ David Glaser / Columbia, MD
Paridiso Theater Open for Jonathan Edwards / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Polo Club Concert / Boca Raton, FL
Radford University, Porterfield Hall SUUSI Concert Hour / Radford, VA
Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse Multiple Concerts / Miami, FL
Sarasota Sailing Squadron Concert / Sarasota, FL
Shack In The Back House Concerts / Southwest Ranches, FL
Signature Grand Center Kolot Fund Raiser/Domestic Abuse / Davie, FL
Signature Grand Center Project Safe-Women in Distress Event / Davie, FL
Skippers Concert / Tampa, FL
Sloppy Pelican Concert / St Pete Beach, FL
Southwest Regional Library Concert / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Stetson House / Fruit Cove, FL
Stone Room COncerts / Church Falls, VA
Sunrise Civic Center Concert / Sunrise, FL
The Farm / Brooksville, FL
The Improv Comedy Club Mamapalooza / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Tobacco Road Solo Concert / Miami, FL
TopSail State Park Solo Concert / Santa Rosa, FL
The Labyrinth Cafe Concert / Ft Lauderdale, FL
Uncle Calvin’s Open for Bill Staines / Dallas, TX
UU Church of Columbia / Columbia, SC
UU Church of Ft Lauderdale Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert / Ft Lauderdale, FL
UU Church of Gwinnett / Lawrenceville, GA
UU Church of Jacksonville / Jacksonville, FL
UU Church of Miami / Miami, FL
UU Church of Sarasota Concert / Sarasota, FL
Vizcaya AIDS WHITE PARTY Concert / Miami, FL
Wallflower Gallery Concert / Miami, FL
Wallnut Street Cafe / Lynn, MA
Warehouse Cafe Concert / Hollywood, FL
Wellington Ampitheater / Wellington, FL
White Springs Folk Club Songwriter Round / White Springs, FL
Woodstock Folk Festial Mainstage / Woodstock, IL