ROCKLAND, Maine — Bethany Schulberg, 16, said she was researching mandolins when she learned the good news. Raising the Blues Ltd., a nonprofit charitable organization, was going to give her a new musical instrument and music lessons.
At the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland on July 17, Bethany was presented with a brand-new Kentucky brand F-style mandolin and a gift of 10 mandolin lessons.
“I was excited when I learned about the gift from Raising the Blues, because I already wanted to learn the instrument,” Bethany said. “I will probably play blues, but also other things — I like a mishmash of music. I just want to say thanks!”
The mission of Raising the Blues Ltd. is to raise, primarily through blues music, the spirits, abilities and aspirations of children who can benefit from musical enrichment and interactive musical opportunities. Blues music speaks of healing, hope and emotional connection. By communicating empathy with the adversities of others, the blues are exceptionally positioned to promote the health and well-being of children facing personal challenges and for celebrating their successes.
Bethany’s name was given to Raising the Blues by Penney Read of Pen Bay Healthcare and Leann Sebrey, director of nursing and pediatric specialist at Pen Bay’s Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice. Bethany has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestion. There is no known cure.
Bethany’s first musical instrument was the flute, which she started playing in sixth grade. Within three months she was able to keep up with the school band at Thomaston Grammar School.
“It’s a tribute to music programs in the public schools,” said Cinda Schulberg, Bethany’s mother. “Not only has she gone on to play in the high school band, she has also studied singing and has been performing in school musicals, most recently ‘Hello, Dolly!’ last spring — all while getting almost straight A’s, in spite of frequent medical absences.”
Bethany’s siblings are also musical. Her brother, Kyle, started playing the violin at age 5, and her sister, Cinda Ann, the cello.
An experience with a music therapist led Ruth Atherton, a native of Maine, to create Raising the Blues Ltd. “Natan, my son, was very ill with a rare genetic disorder and spending a lot of time in hospitals,” she said.
“He was terrified of medical providers. One day in a Boston hospital, after what seemed like hundreds of tests done over four days, suddenly in walked someone wearing scrubs and carrying a guitar. Natan sat right up and said, ‘Where’s the pick?’ This woman, who turned out to be a music therapist, did a 45-minute session with Natan, and for the first time in months, we all had a wonderful, happy time in the hospital. But most hospitals don’t offer music therapy. So we got the idea to combine our love of blues music and love of kids to find a wonderful way to get children through medical challenges and help them with the healing process.
“When we found out that Bethany wanted to learn a stringed instrument that she could take with her during her hospital stays, we were thrilled to help her continue her musical aspirations. She is a remarkable girl and we are confident she is going to be a great mandolin player. But more importantly, she is already a great inspiration to everyone around her.”
Raising the Blues, Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational corporation based in Lexington, Mass., with offices in Owls Head. For more information, visit http://RaisingTheBlues.org.