Veteran performers, artists, authors needed - Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

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Veteran performers, artists, authors needed

Veteran Ellis Reed performs at the Lovell FHCC 2019 Creative Arts Festival

Air Force Veteran Ellis Reed performs at the Lovell FHCC 2019 Creative Arts Festival. Entries will be taken for the 2020 festival from 1-5 p.m., Feb. 10-14, in Building 131, 1st Floor Activity Room, at Lovell FHCC's main hospital in North Chicago.

By Jayna Legg
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Veteran Ellis Reed doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t performing.
 

Reed’s family ran an Episcopal music camp. “There was always music around me,” he said. The Air Force veteran remembers as a child wanting “to rewire my brain and touch music.” He was in high school band, took music classes and sang.
 

In the fall of 2019, he was invited to sing on a national stage. As a top finisher in the Lovell Federal Health Care Center’s 2019 Veterans Creative Arts Festival, Reed advanced to the national CAF. The first week of November, Reed and hundreds of other veterans performed in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
 

At FHCC’s Creative Arts Festival in March, Reed won over judges with his Irish ballad “Fair is the Rose.” At the time, Reed was residing in the FHCC’s homeless domiciliary, in North Chicago, IL. After some credit issues and other lows in his life, he had found himself homeless and in need of help. Veteran Kristin Watanabe sings at the Lovell FHCC 2019 Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Veteran Kristin Watanabe sings at the Lovell FHCC 2019 Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

One day he heard music while walking by Bourke Hall on the FHCC grounds and went in to investigate. FHCC Music Therapist Elizabeth LaCombe invited him to sing, and before he knew it, he was entering the FHCC festival. 

“I didn’t even know it was a competition,” he said. “If I could just sing and have it be my job, that would be a dream,” he said. 

Reed’s dream when he and a good friend joined the Air Force in 2007 was to be a Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) Specialist, but he was treated for heat exhaustion during training and couldn’t finish. He then was assigned to 62nd Air Maintenance Unit as a mechanic crew chief for the F16 air frame. He was discharged in 2009.

 As part of the FHCC’s homeless veteran program, Reed started interviewing for jobs and saving to get an apartment. “I’ve been given an opportunity to have a bed, the ability to have food, talk to a therapist,” he said. 

“Social workers and staff here are really great," Reed said. "They are kind. They don’t placate anyone. They are willing to hear what others have to say.” 

Music is his therapy, Reed said. “But it’s more than that. It’s been said, ‘Music needs to live. It has to breathe, and I want to be remembered for music or nothing at all.’ It’s like that for me.”

Veteran painter Jerry Zabel won first at Lovell FHCC's CAF and went on to the national contest.

Veteran artist Jerry Zabel poses with his winning oil painting, "Lady in Bed," which qualified for the national Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The FHCC Veterans Creative Arts Festival will be March 5, 2020, at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. The deadline to enter is Feb. 14, 2020.
 

Artists, writers and performers can register in person at the FHCC, from 1-5 p.m., Feb. 10-14, in Bldg. 131, 1st Floor Recreation Activity Room. To qualify, patients must be enrolled for care at the FHCC. The categories are Music, Drama, Dance, Creative Writing and Visual Arts.
 

Special recognition categories are available in each division for those who overcome significant physical or psychological limitations to participate in expressive and creative arts.
 

For information, contact LaCombe, at 224-610-5886, Elizabeth.lacombe@va.gov; or FHCC Art Therapist Tricia Stewart at 224-610-3617, tricia.stewart@va.gov.

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