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Melodies to Heal

Music intervention helps critically ill patients



Andrew Schulman, right, plays with Eric Despard at BMC with Dr. Marvin McMillen in the background and Elena Fyfe, surgical physician assistant.

Photo by Christina Rahr Lane

For 40 years, Andrew Schulman has played classical guitar in venues like the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel and Carnegie Hall. The last seven years, though, his stage has been much more intimate as he has made the rounds of three hospital ICUs, two in New York City and one at Berkshire Medical Center (BMC). This latest gig is his most challenging and most rewarding—for it’s the same arena where music saved his life. 

These “medical residencies” grew out of Schulman’s near-death experience and Dr. Marvin McMillen’s interest in the healing environment. Although a study a few years back published in The Lancet showed that listening to music before, during, or after surgery reduces patients’ pain and anxiety and decreases the need for pain medication, the ICU hadn’t been a place where many musicians played.

A “medical musician,” as Schulman and McMillen call it, is different from a music therapist who might, for example, work with newborn babies, chemo patients, and children with asthma. A medical musician is a concert-level professional who has had medical training and is part of a medical team in an intensive-care unit. The critical-care environment is unique because the music must sound as clear and precise as a recording so as not to agitate the patient or the unit. Achieving this goal and striking the right emotional balance can be challenging.

“Music can be as important as a ventilator in an intensive-care unit. It can be as important as a dialysis machine, or as important as the medications we treat people’s blood pressure with,” says McMillen.

And it’s important that the musician checks his or her ego before entering the ICU. Musicians aren’t just playing for the person who is ill; family members and the staff are also in need of music to help them relax and get a break from the intensity of the situation. 

Schulman says music saved his life eight years ago at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in downtown Manhattan. At 57, he was admitted as a terminal “Code Blue” patient with circulatory collapse following a pancreatic-tumor excision. His wife, Wendy, had an iPod loaded with music. Something moved him when he heard Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and, miraculously, he survived his ordeal. 

McMillen, director of the surgical ICU at the time, knew that Schulman wanted to return there and play for patients. He gave him permission to do so and, six months later, Schulman was back with guitar in hand. He now has logged nearly 1,800 hours of playing time in the ICUs. His book, Waking the Spirit, was released a year ago and is now available in Australia and New Zealand. It will be translated for release in Turkey in June and China in early 2018, and a paperback version of the book will be released in August. Schulman is now touring again, performing and talking about the power of music to heal the body.

McMillen moved his practice to the Berkshires in January 2016 to work at a community hospital and further develop the medical musicianship. Although music is piped into the ICU through of Spotify and Pandora at BMC, McMillen believes live music is a better “prescription” for patients’ well-being. In January 2016, he had Schulman talk to doctors and other specialists during grand rounds. Next, Schulman played in the Critical Care Unit so that the staff could see him in action. Now, the last week of every month, Schulman drives to the Berkshires, and McMillen puts him up. In addition to playing three days a month at BMC, Schulman is also the resident musician in the Critical Care Units at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. 

 “Music takes you out of this hostile, unfamiliar world and reconnects you with life,” says McMillen, 67, chief of preoperative care at BMC. 

Musicians work with several different types of patients: those in pain and under sedation; older patients who are confused; those who are recovering; and those who need a ritual of saying goodbye.

 “There’s no question that music decreases the need for pain control and sedation,” says McMillen. “With older patients, especially in ICU, there’s a significant decrease in ICU psychosis when music is introduced.” 

Schulman and McMillen have created the Medical Musician Initiative, with BMC as their sponsor. McMillen also received a small grant from New York City’s Kaplan Foundation. He hopes to expand the program so it runs throughout the month, and he and Schulman are creating a textbook and curriculum, with the goal of having a course formalized and certification awarded for what might be called Certified Medical Musician (CMM). They have already raised the interest of schools like the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, and Boston University, which already is building a relationship with BMC and has close ties to the area with Tanglewood. 

Schulman is eager to start training others. On July 24, two groups of individuals, musicians and physicians, will be a part of a workshop. So far, the musicians include Eric Despard, music director at Southern Vermont College with three decades of professional concert experience, whose wife is a two time survivor of cancer; Peter Argondizza from Long Island; Richard Francis, a cellist from Maine; and Michael Bard from Washington, D.C.

“This workshop is an opportunity to see whether they are interested in this, and how it would work as far as teaching, and we’ll go from there,” says Schulman. He and McMillen are putting together a glossary of what musicians need to know when they walk into an intensive-care unit. 

“We know the medical side of it, and some of us have been patients, and we realize how a trained musician can bring something to the table,” says McMillen, himself a kidney-transplant recipient. “We’ve got everyone’s attention, and now we need to make it teachable, marketable, sustainable.”

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February 2018

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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Pequot Library
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
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Cost: free

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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
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More information

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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
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Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

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Website »

More information

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370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

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Join us for an evening of wine tasting and readings that will open your heart to receive healing messages from your loved ones and can assist you in moving through current challenges you are...

Cost: 80.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

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Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
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Website »

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The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

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Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

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The first one was awesome so let's do it again! Come down for our FREE Winter Jam 2 featuring live music by The Zambonis from 5PM to 8PM. We'll have a beer...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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The 10th annual “Close To Home” event to benefit the Pacific House Young Adult Program will be held Friday, February 23rd at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.  This popular,...

Cost: $50.00

Where:
Hyatt Regency Greenwich
1800 E. Putnam Avenue
Old Greenwich, CT  06870
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Sponsor: Pacific House
Telephone: 203-406-0017x304
Contact Name: Lisa Planchard
Website »

More information

UMass Amherst Libraries present the 24th Annual Du Bois Lecture, featuring Dr. Reiland Rabaka

Cost: Free

Where:
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
14 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: UMass Amherst Libraries
Telephone: 413-577-0932
Contact Name: Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Website »

More information

Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

One-Time Cladies Night for Adults Interested in Learning to Use the Potter’s Wheel Looking to get your hands dirty and learn how to use the potter’s wheel? Try Clay Center’s...

Cost: $50

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
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Website »

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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Seldom has there been such a merging of intellectual rigor and emotion as in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gamba Sonatas. The slow movements reach remarkable spiritual height and the outer movements...

Cost: $38 general seating / $15 students

Where:
Saint James Place
352 Main St
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: Close Encounters With Music
Telephone: 800-843-0778
Contact Name: Close Encounters With Music
Website »

More information

Registration Closes - Wednesday, February 21st Jessica is a Certified Children’s Yoga Teacher, RYT 200, Founder of Lily Pad Yoga, LLC. and Certified Pediatric Occupational Therapist....

Cost: $20.00pp

Where:
DayDreamer Studio
@ The Yellow Money Antiques
792 Route
Cross River, NY, NY  10518
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Sponsor: DayDreamer Studio
Telephone: 914-977-4243
Website »

More information

Washington, CT. Shepaug Valley School will host Minds in Motion™ Shepaug on Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 12:00-4:00. Co-presented by Region 12 and Connecticut Association for the Gifted...

Cost: $15

Where:
Shepaug Valley School
159 South Street
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: CAG
Telephone: 203-291-6586
Contact Name: Julie King
Website »

More information

Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Registration Closes - Friday, February 23rd Douglass DeCandia is a local farmer who works with the Food Bank for Westchester, to grow natural food for families experiencing food insecurity and...

Cost: $40.00

Where:
DayDreamer Studio
@ The Yellow Money Antiques
792
Cross River, NY  10518
View map »


Sponsor: DayDreamer Studio
Telephone: 914-977-4243
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue (ROAR) will host its annual ROAR WITH LAUGHTER gala and fundraising event on February 24th at Rolling Hills Country Club in...

Cost: $175 per guest | table of 10: $1,650 | table of 12: $1,980

Where:
Rolling Hills Country Club
333 Hurlbutt Street
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: ROAR
Telephone: 203-438-0158
Website »

More information

On Saturday February 24 at 7pm, join New Pond Farm’s team of astronomy volunteers and gaze through the telescopes at the 9-day Old Moon and several galaxies and star clusters. The team will...

Cost: $4 per New Pond Farm member ($12 max. per member family), and $6 per non-member

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

New-York based Marina Franklin is emerging as one of the hottest comedians on the comedy scene today, with such notable appearances as Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, Conan O'Brien, The...

Cost: Price:$29 No Member Discount

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Ahmed Gallab makes music that is joyful and generous, with a razor-sharp message about community and social justice. He led the 15-piece Atomic Bomb Band, with collaborators that included David...

Cost: $10-$26

Where:
MASS MoCA
1040 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Telephone: 413-662-2111
Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

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