Robert Lee Coleman’s Pearly Whites

inUncategorizedon February 22, 2013

Ironing Board Sam also visited the dentist when he became a Music Maker partner artist.

Ironing Board Sam also visited the dentist when he became a Music Maker partner artist.

In a society where the healthcare industry is a booming business and Americans are increasingly concerned with the upkeep of their bodies, some organs still get downright overlooked and underappreciated.

Need an example? Think about your teeth. Yes, you may go to the dentist for a cleaning twice a year and you most likely brush at least twice a day, but do you think about them as living organs? Well, they are. Each tooth contains thousands of networks of nerve fibers and blood vessels. Therefore, the health of these organs affects the health of the overall body.

Because of this, new Music Maker artists who receive assistance through the sustenance program are asked about teeth first.

It sounds strange that this would be the first question, but decaying teeth are not just a cosmetic problem; they can become a breeding ground for bacteria that can travel and cause infections.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with Robert Lee Coleman, a Music Maker artist who will soon be receiving a set of dentures from the foundation.

He hails from Macon, Georgia – the hometown of legends such as Little Richard – and music was always a part of his life. “I’ve been playing [rhythm and blues guitar] ever since I can remember,” he said.

Coleman’s musical skill shone as he had the opportunities to perform with musicians such as James Brown from 1970-1972, which was a real high point in the American popular music scene.

Despite these accomplishments, Coleman was not always paid enough to live an even somewhat comfortable life, as explained by Music Maker Executive Director Tim Duffy: “He was an incredible lead guitar player, but he didn’t make enough to get social security, it was mostly a cash business.”

Even if he had been able to get Social Security, the reality is that this government entitlement generally has no real dental plan. Thus, the elderly are especially vulnerable to infections due to decaying teeth. They are also more vulnerable to malnutrition, since the kinds of food they can eat become very limited.

Further, as a musician, not having adequate dentures can inhibit musical performance, since singing and pronunciation become more difficult.

So when Robert Lee Coleman joined the Music Maker team, the musician sustenance program was able pay for him to receive a new pair of dentures at the affordable price of $500 as opposed to the standard $1500.

When I talked to Coleman, it was hard to miss how excited he was about getting the set. I asked what he was most looking forward to and he said “I know I’ll look better! Yup, I need them!”

Even still, providing dentures to artists is more than a health or cosmetic issue, as Tim Duffy explained, “It starts the road to self-worth and dignity.”

-Cynthia Betubiza

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