Niagara Falls High School music teacher Christina Custode has more than a few pandemic-related challenges in her life right now, but she's still has time to advocate for cancer awareness.
As the director of the high school's musical instrument programs, teaching young musicians on Zoom or in small groups seated 15-feet apart is nothing compared to what she's seen among loved ones and friends battling cancer.
Custode, who is a two-time Grammy-considered singer/songwriter, is using her platform as an artist to remind people about early awareness and to raise funds for cancer research.
She is a member of Music Beats Cancer, helping to support cancer research by fundraising among rising artists.
Christina has several family members whose lives have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis and she lost a dear friend to the disease in December.
Her friend, a fellow musician, had mentioned a nagging pain, but by the time the young mother sought medical attention and received her diagnosis, the cancer was too advanced to defeat.
"As women, we’re always putting other people first, and we tend to put things on the back burner that we really shouldn’t," Custode said. Her friend's death was an awakening to Custode, who decided to join Music Beats Cancer. She performed in a fundraising concert sponsored by the organization in 2019, just prior to the pandemic.
These days, with in-person, live performing opportunities unavailable, Custode is still working to raise awareness about cancer.
The singer/songwriter is doing live performances digitally, via her website, www.christinacustode.com, where visitors can learn about her artistry, including being considered in five categories at the 58th Annual Grammys for her song “Fire.” She has also been named “Buffalo’s Best Female Vocalist” and “Buffalo’s Best Original Music Act” multiple times, garnering several Artvoice Best of Buffalo Awards.
Custode hopes to do more concerts with Music Beats Cancer soon. It's important to her to get the cancer awareness message out into the world.
"A lot of the time we say 'I'm not too worried about it. I’ll get it checked out later,' and I guess that s really the key with all of this," she said. "The survivors that I know detected it very early."