Patients at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas Get 11 New Guitars

August 19, 2013 - Guide Live

Musicians love their guitars, and for many, they’re more than magical. They’re lifelong companions. Willie Nelson plays a Martin N-20 guitar, which he nicknamed Trigger long ago, a la Roy Rogers’ famous horse. Those who see Jackson Browne in concert are often surprised by the sight of as many as 16 guitars, which he tunes before a show to the songs he wants to play. Different songs live in different guitars, Browne says.

Well, now, they’re finding out about the magic of guitars at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. A Wells Fargo financial planner named Ken Chinn, who lives in Longview, recently donated 11 new guitars to Children’s, where Chinn’s daughter, Tara, has been treated for frontal lobe epilepsy for the past seven years.

Children’s has a Music Therapy Program, which, prior to the donation by Chinn and his daughter, only had four guitars. On July 19, Tara and her dad donated the 11 new guitars to Children’s at Seacrest Studios, where bluesman Matthew Davidson performed for the patients. The name Seacrest has relevance to the project. Chinn’s efforts are being coordinated through the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and Davidson’s performance was televised on the Ryan Seacrest Network.

Last November, the Seacrest Foundation partnered with Children’s to open Seacrest Studios, which is described as “an interactive space for patients to explore the creative realms of radio, television and new media. In addition to providing opportunities for patients to learn, explore and play interactive games, the studio will broadcast entertainment programming in the hospital through Children’s Red Balloon Network. Seacrest Studios will also include a performance stage, which will serve as a venue for celebrities, artists and performers who visit Children’s Medical Center, as well as a courtyard for visitors to enjoy activities occurring inside of the studio.”

As for the guitars donated through the Chinn Guitar Project, Children’s officials say that “some will be designated for music therapists to use as teaching instruments and some will be given to patients who might not be able to afford instruments to take home to keep.”

Richard Bowden, who grew up in Linden in the Piney Woods of deep East Texas and shared high school bands with classmate Don Henley before becoming Linda Ronstadt’s lead guitarist, joined his friend Chinn at Children’s. Bowden and his wife Holly Joy Bowden are on Chinn’s advisory board.

“I’m real pleased to be a part of this,” Bowden said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing to promote music through music therapy. I think more organizations should have a music therapy program. To be on the advisory board of the Chinn Guitar Project is an honor and a privilege.”

Bowden said the Chinn group recently gave another 10 guitars to the Gregg County Boys and Girls Club. Bowden is also on the advisory board of the annual T-Bone Walker Blues Festival in Linden, where Matthew Davidson recently performed. Bowden jokingly calls Davidson “the Justin Bieber of the blues.”

In a newsletter published by Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, music therapist Karen Norris welcomed the guitars as being therapeutic for the kids receiving treatment.

“With teenagers, the one common language is music,” Norris says. “Giving them a tool to express themselves is a gift beyond measure.”

Among those receiving guitars was five-year-old Austin Hooper. It was his first.

“As his name was announced as a recipient of a guitar, Austin cast aside his walker to give his new blue guitar a bear hug,” Children’s reported in its newsletter.

His mother Elecia Hooper said that Austin “always wanted to play his big brother’s guitar, and it’s great that he has one of his own now.”


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