Miami Living Magazine

Gloria & Emilio Estefan

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Page 44 of 179

Ellen Bukstel, a native Miamian, is well admired in the Florida music community— and beyond. She studied and performed classical piano for many years and taught herself how to play the ukulele and the guitar. At ten years old, she made her solo piano debut with the Miami Symphonic Orchestra, and today her moving songs and music videos nurture the causes she supports and affirm her devotion to her family. One of her songs, "You're Not Better Than Me," was chosen as the winner of the Breaking the Silence in Song competition honoring survivors of domestic violence. The competition was judged, among others, by singer Michael Bolton. Recently, Miami Living had a nice chat with Ellen Bukstel: Miami Living (ML): The first song you wrote began as a poem to your husband, Douglas Segal, before his passing at the too-young age of 36? Ellen Bukstel (EB): Yes, my husband, Doug, was born with severe hemophilia (a hereditary bleeding disorder) and because of it, spent his life in and out of hospitals. He needed continual blood transfusions. Unknowingly, one of these transfusions was tainted with the AIDS virus. During the two years he suffered through this disease, we spoke out and educated the community about it, and this was the beginning of my community activism. He died in 1988. Our children were only 6, 4, and 1 years old at the time. Before he passed, I wrote a poem called "Legacy of Love" and gave it to him. This poem started it all for me as a songwriter. ML: Your voice has a rich, mesmerizing quality. When did you first become interested in singing? EB: My mother, Rita Bukstel, was an opera singer, and raised me on classical music. I started singing folk songs while protesting the war in Vietnam. In recent years I've made money from writing and licensing my music, and producing fundraising videos for community organizations such as Camillus House, Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and various domestic abuse organizations. ML: When you performed at a fundraiser for President-Elect Barack Obama, what songs did you sing? EB: I was called by the DEC (Democratic Executive Committee) who heard me perform some of my political songs. They loved "They Lost My Vote," (about voter fraud) that I co-wrote with my good friend Nancy Wuerzburger, and "Hey, Mr. Politician" (about the loss of personal rights). ML: If I had to describe your voice to someone who has yet to hear it, I would say it's a soulful mix of Judy Collins, Joan Baez, and Carole King—yet unique among sultry voices. EB: You're so kind to compare me to these talented artists —"sultry" is an interesting word that I've heard from others. Linda Ronstadt is one artist with whom I've been compared. ML: You've done so many exceptional things in your life … what's left? EB: To keep writing and producing films and music videos to raise money for worthy causes. I feel very gratified that my songs have touched people and are making a difference. ML: What do you love most about living in Miami? EB: My sweetheart and life partner, Brian (Breadman) Wolfsohn and I currently live in Broward county and together we bring in singers from all over the country to perform in our yearly "Bukstel House Concerts— Shack In The Back" stage. If people wish to be on my email list, they can contact me at, or they can visit: ML MIAMI LIVING 43 MAKING A DIFFERENCE Voice of Reason Songwriter Ellen Bukstel is a committed activist … and a sultry singer, too! Words by Marla E. Schwartz Ellen at the South Florida Folk Festival. (Photo by Richard Sheinwald) Ellen and her son, Brett Segal, with Michael Bolton in New York City at the "Breaking the Silence in Song" competition for her winning song about domestic violence, "You're Not Better Than Me."

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