Archive for May 6th, 2011


‘Lindsey’s Dance,’ A Musical Composition for One Small Girl

May 6, 2011

Honoring a young musician – this article is reprinted from the Lincoln County News, May 5, 2011. The article is written by Eleanor Cade Busby

The spring and the year’s final grade 8 concert at Great Salt Bay School begins 7 p.m., Fri., May 6.

At the performance, the GSB Advanced Band will take to the stage with the world premier and the entire community is invited to share much more than music that night: a very special composition honoring the life of Lindsey Merritt, 12, who died Oct. 7, 2010.

The GSB Advanced Band commissioned Maine composer, Brad Ciechomski, to compose a band work in honor of Merritt, a GSB eighth grader and Advance Band flutist.

Through fundraiser, and immediate community support, the students commissioned a composer. Teacher John Moreau guided them through the background creation needed for the piece, which is culminating in the premier of “Lindsey’s Dance” on Friday.

Lindsey Merritt did not have an auspicious start in life. The spunky two or three year old was making mudpies outside her home in Guangdong Province in China with her best friend.

While playing alone, a man offered the baby an ice cream, and lifting her onto a bicycle, rode away and sat her on a curb to wait. He never returned.

The baby was eventually gathered up and taken to a police station, where the frightened toddler was interrogated and asked her name, her parents, and anything helpful to find her family.

She was terrified and would not speak. In China, when a toddler is found alone she is kept at the local police station for 48 hours, in case she had wandered off and was lost, so that the parents could come to claim her. No one came for Lindsey.

She was placed in DomgGuan Orphanage, along with other abandoned children, and those with handicaps. Her age is only a guess at by physicians who examined her.

In Damariscotta, Del and Jackie Merritt had decided to increase their family of three sons by adopting a little girl. At approximately four and one half years old, Lindsey met her new parents.

She said in her recorded life story, “When I met my parents, my dad was the scariest-looking dude. He looked like Santa Claus with a big beard and mustache. He was tall and you don’t find that in Gaungdong, not at all. My mama was my mama.”

The adoption was immediate and the feisty child, now with the name, Lindsey Milan Chapman Merrit, came to Maine.

She more than flourished. From the moment when Jackie Merritt showed the teeny child her new clothes in the hotel that day, the Merritts knew they had found their daughter.

Lindsey spoke Mandarin Chinese only, but was fluent in English in about four months, and joined her Kindergarten class at Great Salt Bay and became a favorite with classmates and teachers, where she even skipped an entire grade.

She became accomplished on the flute and continued on with the dancing she had started in China, studying ballet at Midcoast Dance Studio, Newcastle and moving on quickly to The Ballet School, in Topsham. At age seven, she was placed with older middle school students to study pointé for two years.

She also excelled at her studies, throwing herself into life with exceeding energy, smiling her way through. She considered every person a friend and one of her classmates wrote, “she was the kind of friend that everyone wishes to be for someone.”

In 2009, she returned to China with her parents and one brother. At the Police Station that took her in as a toddler, the chief remembered her, and the orphanage caregiver knew her immediately sweeping the then 10-year-old Lindsey into her arms.

Lindsey, who while in Maine would insist “I am full Chinese” when friends talked of being half-Irish, or part-Italian, discovered in China she no longer remembered the Mandarin language. She was American.

During the visit to China, she contracted H1N1 influenza. When she arrived home, a chest x-ray, showed a huge problem. Ten days after returning home, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and it was widespread.

Determined to continue to live every moment, Lindsey found ways to pack in even more activity, despite painful treatments.

She was made an honorary member of the Bowdoin College Women’s Soccer Team, GSB classmates Skyped their rehearsals so Lindsey could play the flute with them.

According to her parents, she never complained and continued planning her future. She invented a future career as a “Worldologist,” to study cultures worldwide, and make clean energy.

She was granted a wish by the Make A Wish foundation, and chose to throw a big party for all her friends. The Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay received over 300 guests for her special day.

Her dancing class from The Ballet School in Topsham danced. Music played and she arrived in a stretch limousine, dressed in a tiny white and pink dress. It was in fact, a wedding dress, tailored to her specific instructions.

She walked in like a young princess, though she hadn’t been able to walk in weeks. She continued to a couch where she held court for the beautiful party.

Her aunt, Anna Belknap, had arranged a live feed to the cast of CSI NY, so the actors could greet her, and Jackie and Del Merritt located two former orphanage friends in China for a joyful reunion.

At home, Lindsey knew she was dying, and she told her parents she wanted to stay “here at home.” She died peacefully at home 10 days after her party on Oct. 7, 2010.

The loss of their friend was the first experience with death for most of her classmates at GSB.

Their first action was wearing special shirts for Lindsey and walk in her honor at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Damariscotta on Oct. 17; they raised money for the nonprofit Moving Mountains to help send a girl in China to high school for three years.

Because Lindsey played the flute Ciechomski wrote a mathematical cypher to translate the letters of her name into a theme that was incorporated into the piece and her name is played on the flute.

A difficult musical composition, the student musicians have rehearsed the piece with dedicated concentration.

“They are intensely involved in playing this piece,” said Moreau. “This is emotionally challenging and deeply felt. Their premier on Friday is very important to them. They want it just right for Lindsey.”

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