‘Rare Aire’ group exercises lungs with harmonicas, singing

Positively Tennessee

A group of people all diagnosed with the same serious lung condition isn’t letting it slow them down.

Now they’re bringing smiles to the faces of so many in the community.

Some sing, some play guitar, but the talented, energetic group known as “Rare Aire” throws their heart and soul into the harmonica.

Rare Aire started four years ago at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville for patients suffering from the lung condition COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; which is an inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

They were learning to play the harmonica as a form of excercise for their lungs.

Kathy Tallent is Assistant Medical Fitness Director at the hospital. She heard a similar group in Colorado, and was able to help start Rare Aire here.

“It started off with six people, ” she recalls. “Six patients who had come to medical fitness to exercise.”

One of Rare Aire’s newest members has double duty on the washboard and harmonica.

Jill McManigal says, “this was brand new to me and just to be able to take part in a musical group without being a musician, I’ve never experienced it before!”

Valerie Hendrix’s husband Tom was a founding member. He passed away six weeks ago but she carries on the mission adding sparkle to the group.

It’s about the music, yes, but so much more.

Valerie says, “it’s obvious that it wasn’t really about getting better, it was about enjoying the time we have here.”

As social worker Ed Harper, who helps lead the group, says: “this is not a harmonica group. This is a group of people with harmonicas.”

A group of people inspiring us all to take a challenge, despite the obstacles.

Rare Aire performs at area churches, senior centers, boys and girts clubs, they’ve performed at the Tennessee Theatre.

Call Blount Memorial Hospital and ask for Kathy Tallent in Medical Fitness if you’d like more information, 865-983-7211.

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