During the holiday season, it’s easy to get stressed out,  aggravated and even exhausted – especially for a musician!  For me this time of year is packed to the brim with concerts and events that I’m musically responsible for: at church, the hospital, and other places in the community. It can be overwhelming. This year is particularly frustrating for me because I’ve been dealing with a condition called “trigger thumb” – which actually came from playing a musical instrument! It’s a repetitive movement syndrome, and I was playing the same instrument continuously for an unusually long period of time during a week-long residency, back in August.

But though it’s been difficult for me to adjust, at the same time it makes me aware of what a gift it is to be able to do this at all, let alone do it for a living. And even if my playing is not quite up to par, the music still has the same magical effect on people.  One example: Arts in Medicine’s annual AIM for the Holidays concert in December.

AIM FOR THE HOLIDAYS – This is an annual event we present in the lobby at Shands hospital, bringing in folks from the community to help us celebrate the holidays with music.  Some of the same performers have been coming for years…The Gainesville Flute Ensemble washes over everyone with a lovely sound as flutes of different registers play beautiful arrangements of Christmas carols. Reb Shaya Isenberg often comes to relay a Chanukah message and this time he was accompanied by a renowned New York musician, Reb Shefa Gold.

The day started with a performance of 40 elementary school children from Jordan Glen singing Christmas songs under the direction of music teacher Jolene Jones. Energetic yet somehow angelic, they had a great time singing and playing their recorders, and were a big hit. They were followed by the jazzy holiday strains of Bella Luna, with Ron Shorr on guitar, David Cook on piano, Laurie Jennings on drums and Annie McPherson on vocals and bass. It was great for Jolene and Annie, who are also in a band together (Patchwork), to get to see and hear each other in this setting. At the end of the set, the next singer, a young woman named Jamie Kramer with a beautiful operatic voice, asked David to play piano for her and they did a lovely rendition of I Wonder as I Wander. Then as Jamie continued to sing, our Arts in Medicine volunteers–Adrienne, SunYoung, and Will Kang– provided accompaniment on flute, violin, and percussion.

Guitarist Robert Roberg showed up next–in an angel costume complete with gigantic white wings! While he was getting ready the volunteer ensemble and I filled the time, and then accompanied him during his performance, along with Jamie. Then two of my musical worlds joined together in a new way, as my church choir, Voices of Unity, sang Dona Nobis Pacem, and  Minister Marciah McCartney presented Arts in Medicine with a check from a fundraiser they held on AIM’s behalf back in November!   Afterwards Shaya read a wonderful story, The Chanuka Guest, and Shefa accompanied him with chanting and an unusual little drone-like instrument, called, I believe, a “shruti.”  By now the Flute Ensemble was starting to set up, and they really enjoyed hearing this.

Watching everything unfold, I loved the way each thing flowed into the next and people who hadn’t met before played and sang together for the first time. But then, it’s always like that at the hospital. The piano–a grant/gift from Childrens Miracle Network when I started there over twelve years ago–serves as a focal point where music can work its magic, creating community. And I am very grateful to be in on it.

I hope your holiday is blessed with both music AND magic.  If you can find the time, come visit me at any of my websites listed below. And remember you can go to my online stores at www.cathydewitt.com or www.patchwork.us any time to look, listen, and shop. You’ll find a variety of CDs there for your jazz loving friends (Autumn in New York, DUETS, and Love Notes), bluegrass lovin’ folkies (Patchwork Rides Again and On Track!), and those in need of a spiritual lift or inspiration (Dreamsong and The Traveler). It’s easy and fun, and a way to help us get our music out into the world.

Thanks for your support, and for being part of my community…