China comes to Main Street

Jan 18, 2019
Elizabeth Robbins

Rockland — When Angela Johnson, Oceanside Middle School’s music teacher, heard 8-year-old Elizabeth Robbins singing, she immediately thought the little girl was ready for voice lessons at Midcoast Music Academy.

Robbins began her life as SiHan Wang in Guizhou, a province in South Central China in 2010. Her severely cleft lip and palate were difficult for the superstitious people of her village to accept. She lived covered up and unseen on the back of an assigned caretaker, who carried the baby while working. The women of this remote village sang their stories and histories while harvesting rice. Deprived of light, comfort and human interaction, SiHan learned to sing.

In October 2011, the Chinese government freed her for adoption. By October 2012, through an American adoption agency, Linda Robbins and SiHan Wang had found each other.

SiHan, now Elizabeth Robbins, started the first of her surgeries just four months after arriving in Maine. Her surgeons at Shriner’s Hospital in Springfield, Mass., built a jaw out of bone marrow from her hip, repositioned tissue, rebuilt the roof of her mouth and repositioned teeth. Using pharyngeal flap surgery, Robbins learned to make sound, one consonant at a time.

Her mother Linda, an English teacher at Oceanside Middle School, had Elizabeth with her one day and Johnson heard the child singing. Johnson, who knew about the nonprofit organization, Raising the Blues, Ltd., got things rolling. Together, Ruth Atherton, founder of Raising the Blues; Tom Ulichny, creative director of Midcoast Music Academy; and Paul Benjamin, producer of the North Atlantic Blues Festival, collaborated to support Elizabeth.

Last August, Elizabeth was awarded the Raising The Blues award on stage at the North Atlantic Blues Festival and was given a scholarship for voice lessons at Midcoast Music Academy. Linda is grateful for the generous gift of lessons for her daughter.

“Music is the great equalizer. No one notices her scars when she is making beautiful music with her voice,” she said.

Now, once a week, Elizabeth works with Abi Nash, one of MCMA’s voice teachers, to practice singing, reading music and composing at the studios on Main Street. Nash said Elizabeth has a natural talent for music — full of curiosity and life, and always eager to try something new or experiment in some new way.

“She works hard at everything I give her, and she has a natural ear that allows her to quickly pick up the tune of new songs,” Nash said.

Raising the Blues, Ltd. is a 503(c)3 nonprofit public charity, founded in 2009. Its mission is to bring music, instruments and lessons to children with unique life challenges — medical, physical, education and emotional. For more information, visit raisingtheblues.org.

Midcoast Music Academy, also a nonprofit, was founded in 2012 as a community music school. Its mission is to bring quality music instruction to students of all ages and skill levels. For more information, visit midcoastmusicacademy.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Aimee Liberty | Jan 18, 2019 20:37

Thank you Angela for supporting our youth through music. Nicely done.



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