Ellen Bowman poses Tuesday at the Readfield Town Office with some of the instruments that have been donated to the Resonate! project. Bowman wants to connect children with serious illness to music. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

READFIELD — Ellen Bowman knew exactly how to make a difference in 8-year-old Aiden Fiori’s life when she learned of his cancer diagnosis. 

Her own love of music helped Bowman through a battle with breast cancer, and now that she’s in remission, she wants to share music with children facing chronic illnesses. 

Bowman and Aiden first connected at the Readfield Community Library in March, where Aiden expressed his interest.  

“(Aiden) said he wanted one with strings. So, I was able to get him a ukulele and he took off — it didn’t matter if he did not know any chords. I said to myself, ‘Oh, my. This is the inspiration,’” said Bowman.  

Music has always been a part of Bowman’s life, even before her time with cancer. She grew up around music and recalls playing the piano with her father — a family music tradition she continues with her son, Aaron Neily, and their band, Catbird Crossing.

As a licensed children’s therapist, she incorporates music into most of her therapy sessions. She said music can help children make sense of their anxieties, specifically those that come with a chronic illness, through expressing themselves with an instrument.

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Her love of music is what got her through her battle with cancer and now that she is in remission, she wants to share music with children facing chronic illnesses.

When Bowman met Aiden at the Readfield Community Library in March and found out he was diagnosed with leukemia, she knew what to do.  

Following her meeting with Aiden, her idea to put instruments in the hands of children started to take shape. The result is a program she calls “Resonate!” Through it, she seeks donations of instruments that are overused, underused or lost and lonely to make available for children to adopt for free.

Ellen Bowman, who found that music helped her while undergoing treatment for breast cancer, is seeking donated overused, underused and lost or lonely instruments that children with serious illnesses can adopt. She is seen Tuesday at Readfield Town Office, one of two locations to drop off instruments. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The donation of two clarinets by a couple in Lewiston gave the program a lift, and now Bowman has two donation bins, one at the Readfield Town Office on Old Kents Hill Road and the other at Musicians’ First Choice on Western Avenue in Augusta.

So far a few guitars, a ukulele, harmonicas and a small xylophone have been dropped off in Readfield. And in Augusta, the donation box currently holds some sheet music and a guitar banjo that employee Erik Glockler described as a six-string banjo.

Bowman encourages people to contact her if they would like to donate an instrument but neither of those locations is convenient. She collects instruments in all conditions and will fix those she can. She said she especially needs instruments for smaller children, but will take anything she can get her hands on.

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Bowman said she also is looking for families with children who want to adopt an instrument. They can contact her via email at resonate207@gmail.com.

The ukulele Aiden received came decorated with a Hawaiian theme and the universal Hawaiian greeting “Aloha!” painted on the side. It’s fitting because Aiden was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish America Foundation that sent him to Hawaii.

Aiden’s mother, Michelle Fiori, has noticed the instrument making a difference in her son’s life.  

“Giving Aiden the ability to make his own music during this dark time gave him an outlet to pour all of his thoughts and emotions into,” Fiori said. “He’s gained focus, purpose and confidence.” 

Bowman was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago after a routine mammogram. Music, she said, got her through her treatment, something she now refers to as an expedition, as well as medicine and music as medicine. 

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence,” Bowman said. “For me, it has been a steady expedition, always a rope there to catch me if I fell.” 


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