Hometown Hero: Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne in tune with changing needs

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne teaches a music and movement class at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne teaches a music and movement class at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne of Hopkinton teaches a music and movement class at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield on Friday.

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne of Hopkinton teaches a music and movement class at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne teaches a music and movement class Friday at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield.

Dance therapist Heather Bigelow Hearne teaches a music and movement class Friday at the Blueberry Express Day Care Center in Pittsfield. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 12-03-2023 5:38 PM

Lynne Sabien of Hopkinton, a grant writer at the Concord Community Music School, began working there less than six months ago.

That was enough time, however, to gauge the value Heather Bigelow Hearne brought to the company.

“She genuinely makes everyone she encounters feel like they’re the most important person in the world,” Sabien wrote in an email to the Monitor. “She continually thinks of ways to expand her programs to other venues to better serve Merrimack County.”

Her admiration made it easy for Sabien to nominate Hearne as the next Hometown Hero, even though they first crossed paths in June.

Hopkinton’s Hearne is the dance movement therapist at the CCMS, incorporating music, song and dance to reach inside and unlock potential and confidence and focus while working with various age groups, from children, some with special needs, to the elderly.

She’s doubled as the dance director at First Church in Hopkinton for six years and is identified as the Sacred Dance Director.

She says the human body can be used as a tool to aid with anxiety, trauma, “anything that has to do with cognitives, emotional, physical fitness, behavioral and social development,” Hearne said.

Instead of a student replying with the usual, low-decibel “fine” when asked about their feelings, “They can express themselves and know that mad and sad are okay,” Hearne said. “They interact. They make eye contact.”

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Hearne grew up in Surry, just outside of Keene. She attended a three-room schoolhouse. Her mother was a singer and dancer and also directed musicals. The two performed together in shows like ‘The King and I,’ and ‘The Sound of Music.’ Hearne played the title character in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ directed by her mother.

“I grew up dancing all the time,” Hearne said.

Her father taught her about woodworking and car engines, creating a singer and dancer who didn’t mind getting her hands dirty.

She’s worked at the CCMS for 23 years, since around the time the facility more than doubled in size, to 23,000 square feet, and added teachers’ studios, larger ensemble rooms, a percussion room and a recording studio.

Hearne’s role is helping people to grow through her music and dance. She’s contracted out to various organizations, such as Merrimack Valley Daycare, Beaver Meadow School, Millbrook School and Pleasant View Retirement Center.

Clients pay what they can. Sabien takes care of the grant writing to make up the difference, receiving support from Lincoln Financial, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and private donations.

And, Sabien said, Hearne helped secure a grant for the development of a sensory room as a safe space and the place for an expressive arts therapy program.

“That was through her vigilance and vision,” Sabien said.

In her nominating email, Sabien wrote that Hearne “works with clients of all ages from newborn to 90s. She conducts Music and Movement classes, instilling in toddlers and preschoolers a lifelong love of music. She travels offsite to a number of area organizations, helping at-risk kids with developmental issues.”

And that made her decision to nominate Hearne a whole lot easier.

“I knew she deserved it the first week I was here,” Sabien said, “but it’s nice to see it unfold through the semester.”