Through her music, singer Erica Scaglione has found a way to deal with her diabetes, and it has helped her spark inspiration in others.

By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator, DiabetesCare.net

Seeing the popularity of shows like Glee, American Idol, and X Factor reminds viewers of the power of music. And for people who are sick or have medical conditions, music has the ability to transport them to another place, away from thinking about their ailments and the daily reminders associated with them.

For Erica Scaglione, music has made a tremendous difference in her life. The Florida teen was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of seven, and like a lot of other newly diagnosed people, she had a hard time adjusting to her new life. Scaglione was just looking for a way to cope with the disease and build confidence when she decided to take voice and piano lessons. Now 18, Scaglione has transformed from an unsure little girl dealing with a scary, lifelong condition to an empowered teen who is helping to inspire others through her singing. 

And in pursing her music, Scaglione has a full plate. Along with going to school and working, she writes her own songs, creates music videos, and performs. Scaglione has sung in a number of venues including a major league preseason game, open mic nights, and charity events. And it is through these charity events where she is able show others she can perform in spite of her diabetes, as well as serve as an advocate for diabetes research. 

As a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International’s (JDRF’s) Promise Campaign, Scaglione traveled to Washington, DC twice to meet with elected officials to give them a better understanding of life with type one diabetes and expressed the urgency to continue research funding. While there, she sang for Florida Congressmen Bill Young (R, FL-10) and Gus Billirakis (R, FL-9).

She is also looking do some fundraising herself. Scaglione was able to work with a third-party company to secure two of her original songs (“Meant To Be” and “Sway”) in appearing on iTunes. Proceeds from these songs are going towards diabetes research.

DiabetesCare.net recently sat down with Scaglione to find out more about her singing, her diabetes-related advocacy, and her career aspirations.

DiabetesCare.net: What has music and singing done for you?

Scaglione: When I was diagnosed with diabetes it was hard on me, and I didn’t have any confidence, so I decided to take singing and piano lessons. Music has given me confidence, and it has helped me to show other people that diabetes doesn’t stop you in what you want to do.

DiabetesCare.net: How would you define your singing style and who are your musical influences?

Scaglione: I would define my style as contemporary pop, and Linda Eder, who sings on Broadway, and Nora Jones are my influences. I like Nora Jones, especially, because she writes songs and her music is different from other pop singers.

DiabetesCare.net: Two of your original songs are on iTunes. How were you able to do that, and what was that process like?

Scaglione: I went through a website called CD Baby, and you have to pay to have them released. Once the songs are approved by the company, they are put on iTunes. All the profits for these songs go to diabetes research.

DiabetesCare.net: Speaking of diabetes research, you have a relationship JDRF. Can you talk a little about how you got involved with them?

Scaglione: My father has been involved with them since I was diagnosed, and I decided I wanted to find a way to donate in a special way, and I found it through music.

DiabetesCare.net: You were part of the JDRF Promise Campaign. Can you share what that experience was like?

Scaglione: I had a chance to meet with other people with diabetes, their families, and congressional representatives. These meetings can be sad, but also very inspirational. You get a chance to talk about your diabetes and how you live your life. You talk to people and remind them of the importance of diabetes, and that money should be going to research. I feel like the process of research should be sped up.

DiabetesCare.net: When you know you are going to sing on stage for a longer period of time, do you have to take into account your blood sugar and are there any other precautions in these situations?

Scaglione: I do. I have a pump, and I have to make sure I have enough insulin, and that my sites are ok. I like to keep my blood sugar around 150 mg/dl. I know that’s not ideal, but I like to keep it up there because sometimes it does drop on stage. As a matter of fact, it did drop greatly once while I was performing, and that was not fun at all [laughs]. I had hot, bright lights on me, and I thought I was going to pass out. I was able to finish, but I had to take glucose tablets afterwards.

DiabetesCare.net: What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of diabetes and your singing?

Scaglione: Always knowing your blood sugar. I always test my blood sugar before performing. Your health comes first even before singing. This is always tough for me, because I do forget to test myself or I eat something with sugar and I don’t dose enough insulin. I’m a teenager. I wish I could go onstage and not have to worry about doing this stuff, but it does make me a better performer when I do take care of my diabetes.

DiabetesCare.net: When you are feeling down or having a bad day with diabetes, does it help you to write music?

Scaglione: Yes, definitely. I have written songs about people judging me and making fun of my diabetes saying it`s contagious and only a fat peoples’ disease. All that negativity makes me want to write songs that express, ‘no matter what people say, keep going, and go for your dreams, because there is always going to be negative talk.’

DiabetesCare.net: What singing related projects are you working on right now?

Scaglione: I am writing songs and performing at a local café. I am hoping to do something with the Diabetes Research Institute, and I’m awaiting that. There is an event in March where they have singers perform. Now it has only been famous singers doing the event so far, and I know it is a longshot, but I’m hoping they see some potential in me (laughs). 

DiabetesCare.net: Are you also going to school or working?

Scaglione: I am working and going to school. I want to graduate from my community college in a year and go to the University of Miami. Right now, my major is related to the music business, but I am planning to change that to study endocrinology. They have a program there as well as songwriting classes, so it works out for both of my interests.

DiabetesCare.net: What is your hope for your career?

Scaglione: I really hope to continue singing. I don’t want to become a famous pop singer, because that`s not me, but I do want to sing to make a difference. I want to continue to sing at charity events; that is my goal. I really enjoy inspiring people.

For anyone interested in finding out more about her music, you can go to her YouTube page or iTunes . Additionally, for anyone interested in contacting Scaglione, you can go to her Facebook page