RI teen trumpeter offers anthem of hope during COVID-19 crisis

Street Stories

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As COVID-19 spread through her city and beyond, Lily Bolarinho felt helpless.

It was obvious to the 16-year-old that health care providers, police and firefighters were risking their own health to help the growing number of residents infected with the virus.

“I felt so sad,” Bolarinho said. “And I wished there was something I could do.”

Bolarinho started playing the trumpet when it was about half her size because in her words, “it had only three buttons.”

She found out right away the “buttons” are valves, and the trumpet is not easy to play.

But since she’s from a musical family led by her father John, who plays several instruments, she kept practicing.

“I got better,” she said.

A few weeks ago, she came up with the idea of combining her love of music with that desire to help by playing a song important to her parents, who decades ago immigrated to the Rhode Island from Portugal.

“I love America because if you work hard, you get everything you want,” her father said. “You know it’s going to pay off. Nothing comes for free.”

So, she started trumpeting the Star-Spangled Banner every night at 7:00 from her front porch.

At first, the anthem was echoing down an empty street.

“And then, as the days went on, a lot of my neighbors started to come outside,” Bolarinho said. “Now, my neighbors love it. They always clap.”

The crowd grew with firefighters and police officers standing at attention and saluting.

Then, she returned the favor, taking her one-teen show to the police and fire stations.

“It felt really good to help,” she said.

Since nursing homes have been hit especially hard, she played there too.

Her first stop was Orchard View Manor, where dozens of residents have died after contracting the virus.

“At first I thought I was going to play by myself,” Bolarinho said. “Then, as I started playing, all the nurses came outside.”

Residents also noticed, waving from their windows.

“And my heart just felt so warm and so beautiful,” Bolarinho said. “But it was also really sad.”

Even with Phase 1 of the plan to reopen the state, Bolarinho is not planning to end her brass serenades just yet.

“I will stop when it’s over,” she said.

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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