It’s not often that the blues are associated with a reason to smile.
But for Blue Star Connection, a nonprofit started by blues guitarist John Catt, putting a smile on kids’ faces has been the overriding mission since he gave the first guitar away in 2005.
The group works to put instruments in the hands of children fighting cancer or dealing with some other obstacle in their lives. Catt said the idea was born nine years ago when he met a boy with cancer after playing a show.
After talking with the boy about music, Catt found himself with an extra guitar and sent it to the young man. A few weeks later, Catt received a letter from the child’s doctor.
“Having that guitar changed his entire attitude, according to the kid’s doctor,” Catt said. “He had never seen a kid’s attitude adjust in such a short time period the entire time he’d been a doctor.”
Since then, Catt said, his life has been consumed by the group’s mission. He said that every time a child asks for a specific instrument, the universe provides it.
“I call it Blue Star magic,” Catt said.
The group has donated hundreds of instruments to 25 children’s hospitals and to groups that help kids in need, like Littleton’s Shiloh House. Blue Star accepts donations of musical instruments that are going unused by owners or from people who hear about the mission and just want to help, Catt said.
And for the nine years Blue Star has been operating, the only thing Catt asks in return is a photo of the child smiling and holding the donated instrument.
“Oh my gosh, it just gives me goose bumps. To see their faces light up is amazing,” Dawn Kaufman, development director at Shiloh House, said after Catt dropped off about a dozen new instruments for the group last week.
One of the kids at the home, a 16-year-old boy at Shiloh who wished to remain unidentified, said having the new instruments had changed the entire environment in the music room.
“It had become inspirational,” he said.
The boy said he gravitated toward the violin since his mother, grandfather and great-grandfather had all played the instrument.
“I like the way it sounds. It makes me feel like a brand-new person,” the teenager said.
Catt said Blue Star’s core belief is that music is a form of therapy, whether for a child fighting terminal cancer or trying to get his life back on track. Heidi Brown, the music teacher at Shiloh, agreed.
“Any time they have a musical opportunity, you can see a complete change in their attitude,” Brown said. “Something will click, and I can tell this is a part of who they are supposed to be, and they have not been able to try it until now.”
Some of the young people who have received instruments from Blue Star will show what they’ve learned at Saturday’s Blue Star Music Festival in Clement Park. To find out about the fund-raising concert or for how to donate an instrument, visit www.bluestar
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.