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Shands’ Musicians in Residence concert kicks off Arts + Health Month

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Kings and royals had court musicians to entertain them in their palatial residences for centuries. Shands at the University of Florida has a version of its own: Musicians in Residence.

Think of them as modern-day minstrels who rove the hospital setting, serenading patients at their bedsides, performing weekly concerts and offering singing lessons.

“We’re their living, breathing jukebox,” Danielle DeCosmo said.

The Musicians in Residence duo of DeCosmo and Cathy DeWitt will give an Arts in Medicine concert Thursday night at the Thomas Center to kick off the Society for Arts in Healthcare’s Arts + Health Month.

The two will perform a mix of originals with their respective band members and lead a group singalong of cover tunes they do at the hospital to promote Arts + Health programs and their own CDs.

DeWitt, who has served as Shands’ music programs manager for almost 20 years, said their aim is to promote the integration of the arts into a wide variety of healthcare and community settings for therapeutic, educational and expressive purposes. She recalled one of her first experiences performing for patients with her guitar, harp and bowed psaltery, a triangular-shaped stringed instrument similar to a violin. By the end of her performance, child patients were singing and dancing around their IV poles.

The program doesn’t only include music. Arts + Health blends yoga, meditation, painting, crafting, poetry and dance into the normal routine for patients, families and staff at Shands and other hospitals around the country. DeCosmo admitted that while it can be difficult to stay upbeat in the hospital, the programs are worthwhile.

“There are definitely tough moments,” DeCosmo said. “You’re rewarded with these really beautiful moments with you just being there and giving (patients) a chance to talk about their situation, escape, listen to a song and not have to think about their pain. That distraction means a lot to people.”

DeCosmo and DeWitt’s performance begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 to $20, and CDs will be offered at a discounted price during the show. The event is co-sponsored by the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

George Pappas edited this story online.

Hear the full interview below.

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