Brianna Snider is currently a student at Capital University in Columbus, OH, where she studies music technology and is the music director at the university’s own WXCU Radio. She is the co-founder of Blue Salt Records, and plays music under the name saltlick. Snider – who has a mild form of cerebral palsy, as well as scoliosis – caught up with Half Access to discuss her experiences with accessibility as both a spectator and performer.
Photo by Michaela Snider
When did you start going to shows and getting more connected to the music scene?
I started going to concerts in 2013 (bigger shows), but I really didn’t do house shows and any DIY-type shows until March of 2018. It wasn’t until then that I really started getting involved and actually meeting people at shows.
When did you start playing live music? Was there any hesitation due to your disability?
I started playing live music in March of 2018! I didn’t really think anything of it when I started playing, I just knew that I wanted to go out and do what I love regardless of my disability.
Talk a bit about your disability and how it affects your experience both playing and attending shows. How do playing vs attending compare to one another?
Most people don’t know it, but I have a mild form of cerebral palsy and scoliosis. Playing sets can cause a bit of pain if I have my guitar on too long (the weight of the guitar can mess with my back and cause some pain). Attending shows is a whole other ballgame. Standing for long periods of time can cause my legs to tense up and bring me an immense amount of pain if I don’t sit down. This has gotten better as I attend shows, but it’s still something I’m very aware of. I don’t normally have that issue when playing because my sets are only really 15-20 minutes long.
Do you feel like most venues are prepared to host performers who are disabled?
Not necessarily. I think some venues try their best to accommodate disabled concertgoers, but not so much disabled musicians because it is such a rarity. Most stages I’ve seen don’t even have ramps or anything besides a step to get up. I think that if the situation arose, they would try their best. However, the typical musician “stereotype” is an able-bodied performer and I don’t think some venues would be able to accommodate accordingly.
What have been your experiences at venues with having a disability that is less visible?
If I’m in the crowd where things get rough (I mean, I love moshing as much as the next person) or even if I’ve been standing there for an hour or two, I find it a hard time to get out of crowds and to a place where I could rest. A lot of the houses I go to have limited seating (if any at all), and even some venues are so tightly packed that it’s hard for me to get out of there. Some people even give me dirty looks as I try to get out of the way.
Have your experiences with venues improved over time when it comes to ableism/inaccessibility or have things mostly stayed the same?
I’ve seen some growth! I definitely think there is more awareness now, though. More people are aware of the fact that disabled people also go to concerts, and that we also deserve a space in the subculture.
What’s been your best experience with accessibility?
I’ve always loved the bench at the side of The Mr. Roboto Project in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. It always gives me a place to recoup after a set/watching a killer band so shout out to them! Any places with seating/benches are my friend.
What’s been your worst experience with accessibility?
Flashback to 2014, I was seeing Twenty One Pilots play their hometown show and we were in the packed pit on an extremely hot day. This woman kept pushing into me to get my spot and my legs started to give out under me. My mom had to guide me out of the pit and we sat on the grass the rest of the show because I was too humiliated (and exhausted) to go back in. Not a fun time!
How can folks, venues especially, be more accommodating of artists with disabilities?
Try to help out however you can. Carry gear, make sure there’s seating, and just listen to them to see if they need any accommodations. Don’t let their disability get in the way of treating them like a musician, however!
Anything else disability/accessibility related that you’d like to talk about?
Some disabilities aren’t noticeable. If you saw me at face-value, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with me. People who have known me for my entire life are shocked when I tell them that I have a disability. Because of this, if someone has pain during a show/is feeling uncomfortable while standing/etc., don’t write them off as being a “wuss” or someone that “can’t hang” at shows. You never know what they have going on.
Who have been your go-to artists to listen to lately?
I could go on and on, but I’ve been listening to lots of oldsoul, Tiny Blue Ghost’s new demos (shh), Barely Civil, and Foxy Dads. I’ve also just gotten into JPEGMAFIA. His stuff is unreal.
Recommend everyone a Saltlick song if they’ve never heard your tunes!
“Designated Smoking Area” definitely represents me most as a musician and artist!
The Half Access mission is to make live music more accessible, and in most of our recent work we’ve focused on the experience of disabled fans attending shows. There’s another huge part of venue accessibility, which is making sure that disabled musicians can access venues. But, before playing shows comes learning an instrument, which can often look different for disabled musicians. I got the chance to interview a few disabled musicians to share their experiences with adapting how they learn and play their instruments in a way that works with their disabilities.
Josh Rosenberg, 24, graduated from UMass Lowell in spring 2017 with a bachelor’s of music in music business. This year marks the first year he has been able to work only in the festival and live music industry, specializing in accessibility, without any side jobs. He’s worked at about 20 different festivals, some just once and some each year over the past four years.
Luciano Ferrara is a singer-songwriter from Albany, NY, who after several years as a solo artist, recently made the transition to full-band supported act, performing as Luciano Ferrara and the Ensuing Disaster. Also a creative writing student at SUNY Albany, he just finished his undergrad thesis on a book he is writing about lumberjack folklore. In this Access Interview, Ferrara talks to us about the unpredictability of type 1 diabetes and his experience with accessibility as a performer.