JACK AND KENDRA HAMLETT
The smooth, flowing sound from Jack Hamlett’s steel guitar combined with Kendra Hamlett’s heartfelt piano playing make music that engages patients, visitors, and staff who intersect the main entrance lobby of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. The newest duo to join the Center Stage music schedule brings a unique sound to welcome visitors and soothe patients passing through the lobby. One passerby commented on the surprising sound that transported her to memories of warm vacations.
Jack, originally from Maryland, trained on the steel guitar in Tennessee and Texas to establish his mixture of old-time country, bluegrass, and hymns. He says, “It is such a blessing to play music at the medical center because you get to put a smile on faces where sadness or worry has been. You get to see the interest of the people in what you are doing, you get to share what you love with hundreds of folks, you get to lift broken spirits, and many times you go there to be a blessing to others and end up leave being blessed by one or many of the patients, family member, staff, there … it is amazing to see the inspiration of music at work.”
Kendra, born in State College, has been learning piano since she was five years old. The couple married in the winter of 2016 and perform together at various venues including churches, nursing homes, personal events, and birthday parties. When they are not practicing music, which they can both “play for hours and hours,” according to Kendra, they provide music lessons in their Myerstown home.
Director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine and Center Stage Arts in Health Claire de Boer says, “We seek out musicians who add a poignant diversity to our cache of performances. Jack and Kendra’s gift of music inspires on so many levels. We are delighted to welcome them to our team of Arts in Health professional musicians. ”
Kendra, a daughter of a pastor in Middletown, would play piano in the hospital setting when she would accompany her father on visits to people from their congregation who were hospitalized. Jack often performed peaceful music for patients in nursing homes. They both enjoy the healthcare setting so that they can share a quiet sense of serenity.
Kendra says, “A short while after Jack and I married, I had told him that I so missed playing the piano at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and that I would really love to play there again and would love for him to play his steel guitar there too. He, of course, was interested as we love to share our music with others. So I contacted Center Stage and inquired about Jack auditioning to play too … and now, here we are.”
“I grew up in a musical family,” says Jack. “I started playing the steel guitar when I was 12. My father played steel guitar for about 40 years or so and he was one of my steel guitar teachers. I also took lessons from some prominent steel players in the southern U.S. My parents and I played music a lot in nursing homes and other venues. Music is a part of who I am and has been instilled in me since I was a child. I also played quite a bit at various steel guitar conventions and even played at Scotty’s International Steel Guitar Convention when I was only 16 years old.”
Welcome to Center Stage Jack and Kendra Hamlett!