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Buddy Check 12: Four Breast Cancer Survivors Play in St. Simons Concert

5:22 PM, Oct 12, 2011   |    comments
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ST. SIMONS, Ga. -- It is without a doubt unique.

Picture five grand pianos and two players on each bench - 100 fingers on 20 hands playing difficult music simultaneously.

The event in St. Simons raised $62,000 for the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation. Communication director Jane Bozza said the same event in 2009 raised $42,000.

The concerts were sell-outs. The musicians drew multiple standing ovations. A big draw was, of course, the fun of seeing 100 fingers flying on the keys with such precision. 

But the other draw was not so obvious. Four of the pianists are breast cancer survivors. They are a testimony to survivorship - just as vibrant and energetic as the other players.

The masterweaver behind the event is community leader Diana Murphy. She is in "awe" of the professional abilities and courage of the survivors and applauds all the pianists as inspiring.

Murphy said the idea for the performance bubbled for years. Its undertaking took some guts to turn into reality. Now the people involved want to take their concert to other cities and perhaps around the world.

A "divine" hand is helping them overcome the hurdles and mesh together as such an effective group, said Murphy.

The survivors are Ann Dempsey, Donna Nilsson, Deidre Singleton and Ann Nermoe. Nilsson has followed Buddy Check 12 faithfully, she said.

She explained she got her mammogram which "showed nothing," but she kept doing self exams and found her own lump. 

"It was a fast-growing tumor," she said. "It grew in about a week's time."

Now -- more than 10 years after her diagnosis -- she is urging all women to do Buddy Check and stay sharp about checking for unusual lumps.  (Hers, she said, felt like the corners of a child's wooden block.)

Dempsey said she found her lump, as well. "It was hard and so large you could not miss it."

She said the pianists poured months into practicing and arranging the selections -- measure by measure.  Dempsey said at home she would frequently stop at her piano and play the tricky parts over and over until a comfort level settled in.

Kevin Padget, who works for Jamestown Piano in Brunswick, brought the five grand pianos to the Wesley United Methodist Church, the concert site. Over three days of two performances, he tuned 6,900 strings.

Bozza said a DVD or audio CD of the concert is available for sale with all proceeds going to the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation to fight cancer.

For more info you can call Teri Conlan at 912-466-3360 or email Teri at

And if you're a music lover, you might enjoy seeing the program from the 2011 Five Grands 20 Hands.

Here it is:



September 16 & 17, 2011


Festival Toccata                                                                       Robert Vandall

Oakton Toccata                                                                        Robert Vandall

Irish Air                                                                                     Robert Vandall

Power Play                                                                                Robert Vandall


                                                  * * * * * * *

"Peer Gynt" Suite, Op. 46, No. 1                                                Edvard Grieg


             In the Hall of the Mountain-king

 Symphony No. V in C Minor, Op. 67                           Ludwig van Beethoven

          Allegro con brio



                                                  * * * * * * *

People Need the Lord                                          Greg Nelson & Phil McHugh                                                      Arr. By Mona Coalter

          People need the Lord:                                                                       

            at the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.

            When will we realize that we must give our lives,

            For people need the Lord. 

Fly With the Eagles                                                                      Robert Vandall         

Shall We Gather at the River?                                                        Robert Lowry

          Soon we'll reach the shining river                                               Arr. By Larry Shackley

            soon our pilgrimage will cease;

            Soon our happy hearts will quiver,

            With the melody of peace.


                                                  * * * * * * *

Selections from West Side Story                                             Leonard Bernstein    

          Somewhere                                                                   Arr. By Carol Klose






America, the Beautiful Fantasy                                                 Samual A. Ward

                                                                                      Arr. By Robert Vandall

The Stars and Stripes Forever!                                                John Philip Sousa    



                                                  * * * * * * *

C.S. Theme and Variations, Op. 6                                          Randall Compton

                              Dedicated to Victor Borge

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