Erica Viegas

Top 40 Under 40 2011

Photography 3Ten/Aaron Pedersen

Age: 27

Job Title: Musician, Writer, Fund Developer

Why She’s Top 40: She uses music to help others, and she is part of a campaign team which raises about $25 million a year for medical and dental research and education.

Key To Success: “I trust my creative instincts more now, although doubt is part of being a creative person. It makes us think outside the box.”

In 2005, Erica Viegas travelled to Mumbai, where her parents were raised, to volunteer as a teacher at One! International, a school for underprivileged children. She was struck by the poverty she saw.

She remembers one little girl in particular, “was so malnourished that she couldn’t move,” says the singer-songwriter. “She was three, but she looked like she was about six months old. By the time I left […] she was running around, playing with the other kids. All it took was some nourishment, vitamins – basic things we take for granted.”

While she was there, Viegas took children to the same playground where her mother played as a child, and she stayed across the street from the hospital where her father was born.

“It helped me understand a lot about where I came from, what my life could have been like,” she says. “I was hit by a tremendous amount of gratitude.”

That connection inspired Viegas to write the song “Thank You,” shortly after arriving home from India. It appears on her debut album Where My Heart Goes (which gets played on CBC radio and other stations across Canada) and she donates a dollar from every CD she sells to the school.

Named “Artist to Watch” at the 2011 inaugural Edmonton Music Awards, Viegas also gives back locally by performing occasionally for patients at the University of Alberta hospital with the Artists on the Ward program.

Songwriting is just one way Viegas tells stories. She’s also the assistant editor for the Alberta School of Business Alumni Magazine.

And, as a fund development officer with the U of A’s faculty of medicine, Viegas works with a team to raise about $25 million a year for research and education.

While it’s very different from her creative work, she can still see a connection; she loves to use her music and communication skills to help others, whether creatively or professionally.

“I feel like my life is, actually, really connected, even though I’m juggling all of these different balls in the air that seem to have no correlation to each other.”

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