June 7, 2022
Meet-a-Ram: Katie Cappuccio
The financial specialist uses her music and position on the VCU Staff Senate's Accessibility and Inclusivity Working Group to advocate for herself and others.
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Editor’s note: Meet-a-Ram is an occasional VCU News series about the students, faculty, staff and alumni who make Virginia Commonwealth University such a dynamic place to live, work and study.
As a member of VCU Staff Senate's Accessibility and Inclusivity Working Group, Katie Cappuccio works with the university to support its culture of inclusivity and celebrate the contributions and talent of staff with disabilities.
Cappuccio, who works as a financial specialist for the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success, is also a singer-songwriter who has released multiple tracks, including her latest single “Twenty-Six,” which details her journey with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She graduated from VCU in 2017 with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies.
In January, you released “Twenty-Six.” Could you give us a little insight into the inspiration behind it?
I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome four years ago. It started with a celiac diagnosis and my [gastroenterologist] was like, “There’s more to your story.” I’ve had 12 surgeries on various joints.
I’ve had problems my whole life, so the diagnosis was really just an explanation. … It's like, this is why you have these issues. Just to give you a little context, EDS is a hypermobile condition. So, all the collagen in my body is not great. It can stretch, it can tear very easily. I have a lot of bone on bone in various joints, and nobody's joints get better with time.
I just purchased a house this past summer, which should be very exciting, but … I popped my shoulder out bending down to grab [a dog toy]. So, I was frustrated about popping out a shoulder, excited to move into my house – this is all happening at the same time.
I had a 20-minute drive from my apartment to my house where I was moving stuff. And I had this melody in my head. So on seven different voice memos from that car ride, I wrote the entire song and I got back … to my house, I set up my keyboard and I figured out what I wanted it to sound like. I sent it to the producer that I work with in Northern Virginia, and he was like, “We’ve got to record this. This is one of those things that you just don't question, you don't mess with anything. We should tell your story.”
This is the first song that I've ever really done that. I can write a great breakup song, or an anthem that's catchy, but this one really is a very personal side to my life. But the response from it has been so incredibly overwhelming that I'm grateful, and it's motivating to continue to open up because you never know who you'll help. You could help someone who has your condition. You could help someone else [who] struggles with other chronic illnesses and half the battle is knowing that you're not alone. I felt that that's very important for me to be able to connect with other people.
At the end of the music video for “Twenty-Six,” you include resources for other people living with EDS. Do you plan to continue to use your music to advocate for others?
Absolutely. I think the world of EDS sounds like it's a very rare disease, but it's not. I think that more people have it than they even realize, because again, it's just a name for why you have these conditions. I think there's a lot more people out there with the diagnosis. So if I could help one additional person just to know that this is not just on you, I would absolutely continue doing that.
You’ve used your music as a platform to talk about EDS, but you are also a member of VCU Staff Senate's Accessibility and Inclusivity Working Group. How has that allowed you to empower yourself and others on campus?
Right when the pandemic hit, I was having conversations about receiving an accommodation because I am immunocompromised and I didn't know in the world of COVID if I was asked to go back on campus, if I should.
I realized that accessibility is so incredibly important. I feel like it's assumed that we have all of our ducks in a row for accommodations. And I just think accessibility is a term that needs to be understood in a better way by more people.
I think that the process to find the group and get the accommodation was incredibly motivating for me to let others know we should make this easier for people to find.
What other musical endeavors are you working on now?
I did a cover of “The Good Ones” by Gabby Barrett a couple of years ago. Two months into the pandemic, a girl from my high school reached out and she said, “Hey, you know this song blew up on TikTok?” And I had not, I didn't know anything about it. I was like, “What are you tick talking about?” I thought it was a joke, but it truly went viral. .... I downloaded the app right away once I found out I needed to catch up. I'm really trying to use social media to my advantage. I think that is such a key factor. “American Idol” used to be the way that people got discovered. These days social media is creating that platform.
I'm also looking into a show. I've never done a solo performance, so that's hopefully the next step.
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