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Taking Flight

By Drew Menard, June 12, 2019

Alumna musician Jane “Nightbirde” Claudio on her rebirth after beating cancer

Many musicians go through an evolution at some point, a natural change over time as they mature with their art. But 2013 Liberty University alumna Jane (Marczewski) Claudio, who performs as Nightbirde, describes her artistic shift as a resurrection.

(Photo by Jacqueline Day)

The journey began after she left Lynchburg, where she led worship at her church and performed at local venues (she was a favorite at Liberty’s biannual Coffeehouse).

“I had spent so much of my energy being liked and known by everyone as an artist, but I kind of had a breaking point where I realized I didn’t know myself and didn’t like myself,” Claudio said. “I had to lay down music for a while, and I didn’t know that I would ever pick it back up because I didn’t know that it was healthy (mentally) for me to pursue.”

She committed to the Lord that she would take three years off from music, even as she moved to “Music City” — Nashville, Tenn. — after marrying her husband, Jeremy. As Claudio found herself thriving emotionally and spiritually at the three-year mark, she suffered another blow, this time to her physical health.

“The month and the year (September 2017) that I was supposed to start music was when I got diagnosed with stage 3 cancer,” she said. “There’s a lot of emotions that come with that — a cycle of grief. But going through that, being dangled over a cliff in that way, gives you a lot of perspective on how important it is to do the thing that you love and feel like you were made to do here on the planet. It gives you a lot more courage to take risks.”

Claudio immediately underwent chemotherapy, a process which wore her body down as it sought to destroy the breast cancer. But as she suffered, God constantly reminded her that He was remaking her.

“In the past, I was afraid of disappointing myself and others,” she recalled. “Having gone through something that really made me aware of how limited our time is, I just stopped caring as much about making something perfect, and I just wanted to make something for the joy of making it.”

In July 2018, Claudio was declared cancer-free. With a renewed perspective, she went back to writing music. In March, she dropped her first single as Nightbirde, “Girl in a Bubble.”

“I wrote this song about this emotion, this sense of otherness,” she said. “It describes my experience with cancer, but other people feel this way all the time — being present in a moment but being completely disconnected at the same time. Everyone can see you, and you can see everyone else, but there is no connection. Nobody can reach you or speak to you.”

Claudio chose her stage name from an experience she had before the diagnosis. For three straight nights, she had dreamed about birds singing in the darkness. On the third night, she awoke and looked out the window, where she could see and hear birds singing. It gave her hope.

“I want to be that way, even when I am in the middle of a dark time and there are no signs that it will end,” Claudio said. “I want to be the bird that sings in anticipation of the good things that I trust are coming.”

Nightbirde performs in Liberty University’s Vines Center on April 6. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Dywer)

On April 6, Claudio returned to the stage for the first time in years. Her comeback was in a crowded sports arena when she opened for A-list celebrity Tori Kelly, fresh off two Grammy Award wins. It was something many artists dream of their entire careers. The milestone was even more fitting for Claudio — the concert was at her alma mater.

“For me to come full circle, to pick up music again and then get invited to play my first show back at Liberty,” Claudio said, “was like redeeming the thing that I kind of misused before.”

It was during her time as an advertising and public relations student that she was first encouraged to pursue music as a career.

“At Liberty, I was constantly challenged with the question ‘If you could do anything for this world and you knew that you would succeed, what would you do?’” she said. “For me, the answer to that question was always music, but music was never on the radar for me as a career path. If I had not come to Liberty, I don’t think that I would be doing this. It was pounded into my head that I needed to pursue what I was passionate about.”

Follow Claudio at Nightbirde.com or on Instagram @_nightbirde for upcoming concert dates and music releases.

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