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#RockTheStream: Get to know Brett Newski & Vivent Health

Mike Gifford, President, and CEO of Vivent Health (formerly AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin) made an acute observation on a recent Zoom call… “For many folks, we are dealing with a pandemic within a pandemic. For every one person who is diagnosed with COVID19 worldwide, there are 70 people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. For the populations we serve, this has become a real challenge.”

Gifford is passionate about his organization, Vivent Health, and rightfully so. The organization, aimed at providing services to Milwaukeeans battling HIV/AIDS has been a stalwart community organization and lifeline for a myriad of folks who are in need of assistance. “Our mission at Vivent Health is about social justice and putting social justice in action. We like to think of ourselves as an equalizer in the fight against HIV/AIDS by offering health care (including mental health and dental services), housing, and food to create a one-stop-shop. Our goal is to provide the best for folks who need our help the most. HIV/AIDS is a pandemic and has been for years. For people battling HIV/AIDS in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, it adds a whole other layer of uncertainty.”

Just last week, the torrential rains that came down on Milwaukee flooded the lower level of Vivent Health where the food pantry is located, causing nearly $100,000 worth of damage to food and equipment.

For an organization that runs one of the larger food pantries in the Milwaukee area, this has caused a significant challenge for Gifford and his staff who are working tirelessly to make sure that they provide the best possible care for folks who need their services the most.

Enter Brett Newski, Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter, and veteran indie rocker. Newski’s latest record, Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down dropped in late April and has received lots of praise for Newski’s catchy songwriting, vintage 90’s rock vibes, and above all else, the artist’s candidly sincere nature. The ten-song album is full of hooks and clever lyrics and showcases tales of a road traveled troubadour.

After nearly eight years of non-stop touring, Newski, in a recent Zoom call, admitted that slowing down a bit during the pandemic has had its benefits, “I was burnt out and run down from basically going non-stop for eight years straight,” Newski shared, “slowing down has been great and creatively, things are going well.”

While Newski has perhaps slowed down by his own standards, he continues to be a rolling stone when it comes to projects and connecting with his fans and community. Newski, no stranger to battles with anxiety and depression himself, released “Brett Newski’s Guide to Defeating Anxiety” on his website, a whimsical list of simple but effective ways to cope, especially during these times. In addition, Newski has created a new podcast, Dirt from the Road.

“I started a podcast recently,” Newski shared with a grin, “because of all of the absurd and bizarro stories that occur while touring.” Dirt From the Road showcases Newski’s charming nature and sense of humor as he traverses the trials and tribulations of international touring. Each episode of the podcast takes the listener on a journey to a place where Newski performed with witty and humorous tales. During these challenging times, Newski’s lighthearted and downright funny stories work great to lighten the mood.

Expect to share in some of Newski’s charm, stories, and banter, as he showcases material from his latest release, Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down, as well as his rich back catalogue. “Doing streaming shows is somewhat of a bizarre adjustment,” Newski candidly quipped, “In many ways, it is easier as a performer, as you eliminate a lot of the production of the performance, but in other ways, it’s much harder as you perform a song and hear silence over the screen instead of applause. One way I’ve been able to connect with fans is being able to interact with people and have them request songs. It’s different, but I’m grateful that we can still be together and connect.”

We hope you tune in for Brett Newski’s performance on Thursday, May 28th as he performs his Rock the Stream set to benefit Vivent Health.

As a companion to #RockTheSteam's weekly benefit concert series, we ZOOM it up with the musician/s and nonprofit partner of the week to showcase what's going on in their worlds.

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