Julie Forbes, right, closes her eyes as she listens to Sara Kapinos play the violin in the “quiet room” at Bridgton Hospital. Kapinos of Waterford is a nurse at the hospital and plays the violin for patients a “couple times a month.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BRIDGTON — In a comfortable quiet room set aside for Bridgton Hospital patients and their families, nurse Sara Kapinos lifted her violin and began to play.

The first strains of  “O Come All Ye Faithful” drifted softly, then grew stronger. From her wheelchair, Gerri Kloskowski closed her eyes and hummed along.

Kloskowski, 82, had spent more than a month at the hospital for physical rehabilitation. The music was welcome respite from life in the hospital, and a happy reminder she would be home for the holiday.

“Puts you in a Christmas mood,” she said afterward. “I can’t wait to go home.”

The violin that Sara Kapinos was made by her great-great-great grandfather, Henry Knopf. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Kapinos, 38, was once a professional violinist who toured internationally. Now, she is a nurse who most often works at Bridgton Hospital.

For the past year, she has combined her two passions, playing for patients, stressed families, other nurses and anyone else at Bridgton Hospital, Rumford Hospital or Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston whose spirits could use a lift.

That small moment of respite? Her specialty.

“Patients are here, they don’t want to be here — most of them don’t — and it’s a fragile time. It’s a really emotive time,” Kapinos said. “And it’s a time when music really moves them.”

Kapinos began playing the violin when she was 4. There had been musicians in her family, but they were distant relatives. When she picked up her first instrument, her family did not expect her to stick with it.

By her early 20s, Kapinos was a professional musician touring internationally. But she was exhausted.

“I came back home and I had kids, kids were getting older and getting busier,” she said. “So I decided to get a real job.”

She was at a doctor’s appointment with one of her sons when she saw something that touted the Central Maine Medical Center School of Nursing, now the Maine College of Health Professions. She had always been interested in medicine.

“I said: ‘Well, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that,”” she said.

For 13 years, she kept her nursing career separate from her musical career. Some people at work knew she played the violin, but it was not something that came up a lot.

Then, last year, her supervisor asked her to play at the annual staff holiday lunch. Kapinos was hesitant.

Julie Forbes, right, listens to Sara Kapinos play the violin in the “quiet room” at Bridgton Hospital. Kapinos of Waterford is a nurse at the hospital and plays the violin for patients a “couple times a month.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“At first, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t play in front of my co-workers!'” she said. “I don’t mind playing in front of strangers, thousands of them. I have. It’s playing in front of people who you know that’s hard.”

But Kapinos said yes. And her performance was a hit.

She soon found herself playing for others: cancer patients getting treatment, patients too ill to leave their hospital rooms, families visiting loved ones, staff, people moving through the lobby.

She played not only at her Bridgton Hospital, but also at Central Maine Healthcare hospitals in Rumford and Lewiston. Sometimes, she dropped by to play on her day off.

Kapinos, who has worked to improve patients’ hospital experience, considers her playing another way to help people feel better.

“There’s something about music that inspires the soul,” she said. “When words fail, music helps.”

Her performances drew the attention of people outside the hospitals. In the past several months, she’s been featured on WCSH and WMTW, and in The Bridgton News. CNN picked up a story on her.

But while she has gotten a lot of attention, both in and outside the hospital system, Kapinos considers herself a nurse first.

When a couple of patients struggled to get to her small concert in the quiet room last week, Kapinos was the one who helped.

“People were tied up and I was like: ‘I am a nurse! I may have a lot of glitter on, but I can still walk patients,'” she said.

Kapinos said she is happy she is able to make people happy through her music. And nursing.

“I can’t even describe it. It’s a really great thing,” she said. “I’m blessed that I can do my two favorite things in the same day. Sometimes in the same moment.”

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