Bethany Schulberg, 16, said she was researching mandolins when she learned the good news that 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 July 17, Schulberg was presented with a brand new Kentucky brand F-style mandolin, along with 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,” Schulberg 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 is exceptionally positioned to promote the health and well-being of children facing personal challenges and for celebrating their successes.

Schulberg’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. Schulberg has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestion. There is no known cure.

Schulberg’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. Cinda Schulberg, Bethany’s mother, said her daughter’s experience is a tribute to music programs in the public schools.

“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,” she said.

Bethany’s siblings also are musical: brother Kyle started playing the violin at age 5 and her sister, Cinda Ann, plays the cello.

An experience with a music therapist led Ruth Atherton, a native of Maine, to create Raising the Blues, Ltd. Natan, her son, was very ill with a rare genetic disorder and spending a lot of time in hospitals. 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,” said Atherton.

Most hospitals, however, do not offer music therapy, she added, “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 Raising the Blues found out that Schulberg wanted to learn a stringed instrument that she could take with her during her hospital stays, it pitched in 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,” said Atherton.

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 For more information about Pen Bay Healthcare, a member of the MaineHealth system, visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to