‘It takes more than medicine to heal a child’: Student musicians play bluegrass for young Maine patients

(Front, left to right) Mason Strunk, Perrin Davidson, Finnegan Woodruff, (back, left to right) Samantha Pierce and Lena Rich met at the Maine Acoustic Festival last year and have been playing together around the state since. On Sunday they performed a set for children at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.
Sam Hill | BDN
(Front, left to right) Mason Strunk, Perrin Davidson, Finnegan Woodruff, (back, left to right) Samantha Pierce and Lena Rich met at the Maine Acoustic Festival last year and have been playing together around the state since. On Sunday they performed a set for children at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 18, 2014, at 11:49 a.m.
Lena Rich (front) sings alone as Samantha Pierce (back) keeps the rhythm on her stand-up bass.
Sam Hill | BDN
Lena Rich (front) sings alone as Samantha Pierce (back) keeps the rhythm on her stand-up bass. Buy Photo
Tucker Pierce plays his mandolin during one of many acoustic jams.
Sam Hill | BDN
Tucker Pierce plays his mandolin during one of many acoustic jams. Buy Photo
Finnegan Woddruff, the group's lone fiddle player, prepares to let loose during a song.
Sam Hill | BDN
Finnegan Woddruff, the group's lone fiddle player, prepares to let loose during a song. Buy Photo
Tucker Pierce and Perrin Davidson jam together during one song. Both said they had a lot of fun during the set and that they would like to come play again in the future.
Sam Hill | BDN
Tucker Pierce and Perrin Davidson jam together during one song. Both said they had a lot of fun during the set and that they would like to come play again in the future. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Patients at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital got a taste of bluegrass tunes on Sunday from a group of high school students who wanted to give back to the community.

The seven-member band Group Play Gathering played an hourlong set of acoustic tunes in the central atrium of the children’s hospital, housed at Maine Medical Center. A few children who were healthy enough joined them while others listened from their rooms.

“It was really moving,” said vocalist and keyboardist Lena Rich. “It made me feel so thankful for my life, lucky even.”

The group, which consists of musicians from Brunswick, New Gloucester, Freeport, Yarmouth and Eustis, met at the student-driven Maine Acoustic Festival and have been playing shows around the state since, from weddings to restaurant gigs.

“There aren’t a lot of people our age who play bluegrass, so when we got together and were introduced, we decided to play together even after the festival,” said Tucker Pierce, who plays the mandolin.

The band decided to donate the money they earned from their performances, upwards of $500, to the children’s hospital. They hope it can be used to purchase new toys or movies for the children.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to bring music to these kids who are stuck here,” said Rich.

Perrin Davidson, the band’s lone banjo and guitar player, played at the children’s hospital in another band a few years earlier and always wanted to return to play in the wing again.

“I was just wowed by the atmosphere. It’s really an amazing place,” said Davidson.

The children’s wing is designed to be as “normal” as possible for patients and families, and includes a playroom, kitchen and additional living spaces.

Alice Burrowes, a child life assistant in the wing, said they usually try to arrange special entertainment for the patients a few times a month.

“It gives them a break from what they have to go through every day,” said Burrowes. “We do everything we can to make this place as comfortable as possible, but it’s still a medical facility. The kids, the families, they have to be here for so long and it’s things like this that brings them out of that. It brings the outside in for them.”

Even the medical staff was appreciative of the music and change of atmosphere. Although most were busy working, a few popped in for a moment to see the band play.

“I’ve always said that it takes more than medicine to heal a child. Giving everyone here a chance to laugh, sing and smile is almost better than medicine right now,” said Burrowes. “You can never go wrong with music, it’s a great healer.”

 

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