CARY – After Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago saved his life, Cary-Grove High School freshman Matthew Jazwinski is giving back through his gift of music.
The 14-year-old started the band Pulsebeat in January 2014 when the hospital asked him to play bass at the Chicago Dance Marathon. Not wanting to play alone, Matthew gathered a singer, guitarists, keyboard player and drummer he knew through music programs to join him.
“We expected it to not even go past the first gig,” Matthew said.
More than two years later, the band has played shows at the Chicago Dance Marathon, college dance marathons and other events benefiting the hospital, including opening for Gavin DeGraw, Colbie Caillat and Ben Rector for Eric and Kathy’s Concert for the Kids hosted by 101.9fm the Mix radio.
The band donates its time to play at events that raise money for the hospital, all while being high school students.
“These kids could be sitting around playing video games or getting into trouble, and they’re not,” Matthew’s mother, Tamara Jazwinski said. “And they’re like little superheroes because they go to these events and really make an impact on what goes on.”
Tamara Jazwinski said more than $5 million has been raised combined at all of the events the band has played at.
Matthew, who was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, has had four surgeries since he was born and uses a pacemaker.
Gregory Webster, an attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital, has been Matt’s doctor for about six years, and said the band has been amazing at helping bring awareness to the hospital.
“I think the dance marathon is a great example of bringing the message to a lot of people at once,” Webster said. “And the way that we provide care for people is not only by bringing patients in and taking care of patients one by one, but also inspiring a big number of people … to be part of health care and be active and try to discover new treatments for the future.”
Matthew said he hopes the band can play at larger venues and continue to spread the word about the good work the hospital does.
“I hope they understand that what they’re going to the concert for, or what they’re participating in the dance marathon for, is really worth it,” Matthew said.
Pulsebeat’s lead singer and Barrington High School senior Sarah Cullen, 17, said one of the most meaningful concerts the band played was this past spring at DePaul University.
At the concert, there was a young boy who was a patient of the children’s hospital who stood in front of the band holding his arms out and enjoying the music throughout the performance.
After the concert, the band found out the boy had recently received cochlear implants, and this was the first time he had heard live music.
“It really changed my perspective and made we want to pursue music even more,” Sarah said.
The band, which includes Matthew, Sarah, 16-year-old lead guitarist Drew Stolz, 16-year-old drummer Tristan Ribbens and 15-year-old rhythm guitarist and keys player Daniel Souvigny, practices weekly at Consolidated Music of Barrington.
Pulsebeat plays covers from genres including alternative rock, classic rock and blues, Matthew said. In the next couple of months, they hope to work on original music.
Matthew started playing classical guitar at about 6-years-old, and base at 8-years-old, he said. He’s always been drawn to music and art because with his pacemaker, he can’t play sports.
“So I’m able to do music, which I think is a lot more enjoyable,” Matthew said.
About three years after his last surgery to replace his pacemaker, Matthew is doing well and only visiting the hospital for yearly checkups, his mother said.
“There are two things that have save his life,” Tamara Jazwinski said. “And one has been Lurie Children’s Hospital, and the other has been music.”
For more information on the band, visit http://www.pulsebeatband.com.