New Video for “Oneness” – from The Traveler

April 23rd, 2013

We are starting to create videos for The Traveler CD, and it’s so much fun! Here’s the first one, a beautiful poem by Freeman called “Oneness”. Its gentle rocking rhythm and Celtic feel seem to elicit these oceanic images…see what you think!

This one features me on vocals, Tracy Collins and me on keyboards/strings, George Tortorelli on flute, Hannah Alkire (from Acoustic Eidolon) on cello, Michael Ward-Bergeman on accordion, and Tracy Collins and Rob Rothschild on percussion.

The poem, by James Dillet Freeman:

Out on a Cape where sea and land
Are almost one, I like to stand;
There, boundaries become unfixed.
Sea, earth and I all intermix.

Or sometimes I am swept along
A crowded street, one with the throng,
And losing consciousness of me,
Feel only my humanity.

Or in the silence of a prayer,
I find God’s presence everywhere.
My heart dissolves in God’s one heart.
Where does God end? Where do I start?


September 16th, 2012

In Eugene I met up with harpist Donna Mast and her husband Steve, a metal sculpture artist. They took me sailing the day I arrived…and yup, that really is their last name!






I also visited the Jazz Station, where I sang with the band, and a nice outdoor gig at the Fifth Avenue Market. My friends pianist John Crider and his wife Nancy, a singer, had told me about these places, and now they are back in Oregon, singing and playing there again!
From Eugene I headed back to Portland to pick up Rob, who was accompanying me for the last week of my trip. Our first destination was Unity by the Sea, the tiny church in Gleneden Beach that this whole trip actually started from.

Several years ago, I was contacted by someone who wanted to know if I had a songbook for my album, “Dreamsong.” I  didn’t, but when I finished The Traveler project (which includes a songbook) I thought, “I wish I knew who that was who contacted me about a songbook…” Well, of course, the next day I got an email from Meredith, of Gleneden Beach, who said “I was just wondering about that songbook…”  She then ordered all the products for her church, invited me to come out, and actually also motivated me to go ahead and make a songbook for “Dreamsong!”

“Out of all the people we have who come and do music for us,” she told me, “Yours are the best songs for our people to sing.”

Once I had made the decision to go to Oregon, all these other things just fell into place—other churches to play at, people to stay with, Arts in Medicine opportunities…So, everything was quite magical. But my experience at Gleneden was really special.


The first day we got there, they gave us a key to the place where they were putting us up for the night—a beautiful little cottage right on the ocean! We sat on our deck having a glass of wine and watching the sun set against the dramatic Oregon coastline.



The next day, as I gave my talk on James Dillet Freeman, Sandra Combs, the minister there, shared her own stories about James. Framed, signed, and hanging in a place of honor is James’ poem of dedication and blessing for a new church. This was the church he created that blessing for, and now it is used for Unity churches everywhere

Later that day we headed up the coast for the annual International Kite Festival held on the beach at Lincoln City. It was a clear, sunny, windy day, and the kites were dazzling in the sparkling sunlight. People come to this event from all over the world. It is televised by major networks, and you can find many videos on Youtube. It’s well worth watching!









Before heading back to Portland we visited harpist Beatrice Rose, who’s been living basically off the grid with her husband for about thirty years. They have acres and acres of land, beautiful roses, miniature horses, an outdoor clay oven, an amazing greenhouse, and a garden full of home-grown goodies that included the makings of the best strawberry-rhubarb pie I’ve had in decades! We also had a great time making music together.








Rob Feeds the Pony!


Our last weekend was spent back in Portland, where pianist Sydney Lehman Steen accompanied me in a wonderful jazz concert at Unity of Portland. We celebrated TWO GREAT American traditions–the American Songbook, doing songs like Our Love is Here to Stay, There Will Never be Another You, and My Funny Valentine—and ICE CREAM! We had a great turnout—about 150 people—and everyone had a lot of fun.

Blurry blonde pianists play in Portland!


Every Unity church I went to was different, yet of course some things are the same everywhere. It really helps to maintain that sense of family and being at home, yet also it’s inspiring to learn other ways of doing things. I’m very grateful for my worldwide Unity connection, my harpist friends, and my own family for supporting me so lovingly in these endeavors. This week, I’m off to Unity Village for Sound Connections, the annual music convocation!

Some of the landscape at Unity Village is like
old English countryside…

These gigs are up in Oregon

August 28th, 2012
Also published in the Gator Lunch Out Blog,

PORTLAND, ORE. – Flying into Portland, Oregon, it was a glorious sunny day and the landscape was breathtaking. Mt. Hood looked like you could just walk up to it from the wing of the airplane.  The valleys and rivers below were lush, green, and flowing.


My trip to America’s far west for several musical concerts was off to an exciting start when, after boarding the 6 am flight out of Gainesville, I heard my cell phone ringing and discovered it was not my phone, but my husband Rob’s.  I couldn’t even figure out how to answer it . . . of course, I had an excuse, actually two:  I was groggy from getting up at 4:30 that morning and then I was panicked — all the names, addresses and phone numbers of the places I was to play and the people I was staying with during the trip were on my phone!

With his cell in my hand, I headed to the front of the plane. As I pushed past others still boarding, I heard a phone ringing in my purse again–this time it was MY phone and my husband was calling to tell me that I had taken BOTH phones.  Fortunately, the nice people at Delta took his cell back to the gate so he could drive back to the airport and get it.  No extra sleep before work for him! Or for me — after that adrenalin rush I was wide awake for the rest of the 5-hour flight.

When I got to Portland I headed south to visit my friend Terra.  082212coffee

I stopped in Hawthorne, Oregon and visited the famous regional bookstore, Powell’s, and had my first cup of incredibly delicious northwestern cappuccino.  BTW, it’s true—nearly every corner in every town in Oregon hosts an independent and colorful coffee shop and parking lots and gas stations host kiosks or coffee trucks all serving great coffee.  The only problem is stopping short of 5 cups a day. It’s kind of like “trying” to get a bad glass of wine in Italy.

When I got to my friend Terra’s house, she and her partner Michael had cooked up a tasty lamb stew for me that had simmered all day in their crock pot.  After that, more friends materialized out on the deck and we sat around a fire playing music and roasting obscenely HUGE marshmallows.– these marshmallows were the size of a good-sized styrofoam cup! Has anyone seen these? They were so big you had to roast them twice.


The next morning, after showering to the scent of local lavender, I took off, for New Seasons Market, a really fun store that I haven’t seen in Florida, and my next incredible cup of coffee at Peet’s, a Northwestern coffee shop that has been “hand roasting” coffee since 1966!

My ultimate destination was Oregon’s coast where I had 2 gigs in Newport on Sunday (Father’s Day), but first I headed for the hills outside of Newburg to meet Sydney Lehman Steen, Music Director at Unity of Portland, who would host me for a jazz concert and a Sunday morning service gig.

We went off in search of lavender fields, but it was a tad too early, so we settled for strawberry picking and wine-tasting instead! (Let me hear it now, a big, collective “Aawww…”)  Oregon’s strawberries are different from Florida’s, at least this batch:  smaller but very tasty. I became quite addicted to them and to Portland Cherries.

Driving to the Pacific coast on Route 18 was lovely–mountains and forest on either side most of the way. It was clear and sunny, and I was looking forward to the coastal view, but quite suddenly, as I turned onto US 101, the road was socked in — almost a total white-out from fog for the 40-mile drive along the coast.  The next day of my West coast adventure, however, dawned clear and beautiful.








I had a great time doing the musical service at Ocean Unity Church in Newport, where I gave a talk on “Unexpected Journeys.” After that, I played for Father’s Day brunch at a colorful art and music venue called Café Mundo, which my accordion playing buddy, Michael Ward-Bergeman turned me onto. Michael plays here in Gainesville at Leonardo’s 706 with Marty Liquori’s gypsy jazz band. Michael did a “gig a day” in 2010; check it out at!

At Café Mundo I had my third incredible cappuccino! In fact, they paid me in coffee (by the pound).

Right before I left for Oregon, I heard a news story about a giant dock floating over from Japan to the beach in Newport. This was right where I was going to be in 2 days, so when I got there I knew I had to see this!


Some resourceful people had built a little footbridge so you could cross the tidal creek and get to the ocean where the dock was. When I got there, people were enjoying themselves standing on the dock and taking pictures. Then the sun came out and they got even happier! I think that’s kind of a big deal on the Oregon coast…the sun coming out.

After spending another night with new friend Rev. Donna Little who treated me to homemade crab chowder, I took off the next day to the inland farming community of Corvallis to visit long-time friend Kathy Morris, the first of three wonderful harpists in Oregon who housed me!

The hospice where Kathy plays in Albany literally opened its doors in a new building and as part of the opening I played and did a presentation on Creativity & Palliative Care. The attendees appreciated my presentation and the harp and piano music.

That evening I held a workshop for hospital musicians and artists, in a fabulous place called simply the Arts Center  It included music and healing research, songwriting and composing in the moment, harp music, piano music, singing, and ended with drumming and dancing–a great time was had by all.


The next day it was on to a place I’ve been hearing about for most of my adult life—Eugene, Oregon.  Stay tuned for more adventures, from Eugene, Alpine, the International Kite Festival in Lincoln City, and back to Portland for jazz and ice cream!

They do Things Differently in Oregon…(a series)

August 13th, 2012

Planning our trip to Oregon, we came upon several hotels owned by the Mcmenamin Brothers. These guys are very creative; they take old (historic) buildings and create hotels out of them, generally keeping a lot of the place intact, posting historic photos and emphasizing the original theme of the place. We stayed at Kennedy Schools, out in the suburbs, which has a pretty neat history as well, but our favorite experience was staying at the building connected with the old Crystal Ballroom close to downtown Portland. This is a great place if you want to have an urban experience that’s somewhat quirky; you are within walking distance of Powell’s Bookstore as well as many great clubs and restaurants in the Pearl District. The hotel rooms, as in all Mcmenamins, have themes, murals or drawings of some kind in the room, and hand-painted headboards.  Ours was the Summertime Blues! Some rooms have private baths, others shared. Do check out the historic music photos along the walls and stairwells.

Lyrics are written on wall above headboard  “Tried to call my baby…ain’t no cure for the Sum. Blues!”

This hotel has an excellent restaurant at street level (Zeus Cafe), as well as a bar/restaurant downstairs with live music several nights a week. The music we heard was exceptional–a local trio of women singers, plus a cellist from Europe. There was no cover, and the food and drinks were great. There is also in this downstairs level a wonderful saltwater soaking pool, which appears to be a pretty happening thing in Oregon, at least in all the Mcmenamin Bros hotels. They also tend to all have live music, sometimes a spa and wine tastings–they have their own vineyard and beer brewery, and have several beer pubs throughout the state! The Crystal is quirky and inexpensive; at the other end of the spectrum is probably their Grand Lodge ( Check out the options if you’re going to Oregon…

“Music Speaks Louder than Words…”

July 26th, 2012

In my experience over the years with Shands Arts in Medicine I’ve used a number of different instruments to raise patients’ spirits and inspire their friends and family through music. Recently I’ve been taking the Celtic lap harp around with me, to reach patients who are non-verbal or who don’t speak English, through instrumental music and wordless song sharing. One day I had a couple of students from our AIM intensive with me up in Pediatrics, and as we passed by the playroom, one of my AIM colleagues  was in there already, helping the kids paint pictures.

I stopped in and beHarp and Handsgan to play some music, and as I did one little girl was really intrigued with the harp.  I had tuned it in a pentatonic scale so that all the notes sound good together.  I invited the girl to play and she loved strumming it–she was a natural! Her mother was also there, and told me that the little girl’s sister, the patient,  was down the hall.  I asked if the patient would like to hear some music and the mother took me to the room.

When I walked in I saw that the patient was a baby, lying in a crib, hooked up to several machines and crying rhythmically at the time. I began to play the harp, humming along to the music, while the mother stroked her head. The other little girl came in, and I asked her if she’d like to play for her sister. I held the harp as she strummed it, and after about five minutes, the baby calmed down and peacefully went to sleep. The students were standing outside the door, and told me they noticed the numbers on the machine that registers the patient’s bodily functions such as blood pressure and heart rate went from 200 to 188, an extraordinary improvement.

I have also found that music does wonders with nonverbal patients who are trying to find their voice again. I recall one woman who was in the hospital recovering from a recent stroke. Many stroke patients regain their verbal abilities after several weeks, but often feel helpless when they are initially unable to express themselves. The woman’s family was in the hospital visiting with her, and I came in with the harp and asked if they wanted to hear some music. They did, and her husband told me her favorites were gospel hymns. Just as I started to clarify, “…like Amazing Grace?”, her husband said the same in unison, and as we laughed I started to play. The whole family began to join in and sing the song along with me, a cathartic experience for both the patient and the other people in the room.

From time to time I’ll create lyrics for the music on the spot, usually words that have some meaning for the friends and family, and on this occasion I sang, as I was leaving, “Music can lead the way back to speech”. On A return visit to the woman’s room a day or two later, I asked her if she wanted to listen again and she nodded. At the end of the visit, as I was leaving the room, she stopped me and uttered two words, “Thank you”.

This ability of music to create a neural pathway that can lead to the part of the brain where speech is housed has been shown by much research. I first read of it, after going through a similar experience with a patient, in an article published by renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. More information on his research can be found at his website,

Arts & Aging Across America

July 19th, 2012

I got to attend a very interesting webinar today by Dr. Jeffrey Levine (  Dr. Levine is an attending physician with the Faculty Practice program at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, and his specialty is Geriatrics.  He is also a renowned photographer whose pictures of the aging population and elders throughout the world have been displayed and published in many magazines and galleries.  His webinar today explored a historical perspective of doctors who were also artists, including Andreas Vesalius, William Carlos Williams, Frank Netter and Anton Chekhov. Chekhov was often asked why he would choose both arts (literary) and medicine as a dual career.  His reply:  “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.”   I also liked his quote: “The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.”

Dr. Levine’s webinar both asked and answered questions, as he transitioned smoothly between his roles as artist and physician.  Once you visit his blog, see his photos and read his stories, you will definitely want to be on the lookout for his traveling exhibit, Aging Across America, which will be shown in several teaching hospitals across the country.  The exhibit is being presented by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, who also hosted today’s webinar.

Meanwhile check out The Corpus Callosum, Buddha’s Enlightenment, and the Neurologic Basis for Creativity

The Traveler has arrived!

November 30th, 2011

The Traveler

I’m so excited that The Traveler CD – the project that I’ve been working on for the last two years – has finally come to fruition. It’s been an amazing process, putting the words of James Dillet Freeman and other spiritual leaders to music, and I feel honored to have been involved in this collaboration across space and time.

The Traveler is also available as a Songbook, Performance Tracks (music minus the lead vocals), and as MP3 downloads.

Many wonderful musicians, arrangers and engineers from across the country have added their amazing talents to this new music. Please visit to hear song samples, read more about the project, and get a free download. And let me know what you think!

Gainesville singer, songwriter lives for her music

April 21st, 2011

{Here’s a nice story about me that was published in the Alligator on Apr 4, 2011}.

By Meredith Rutland, Alligator Writer The Independent Florida Alligator | 0 comments

For Cathy DeWitt, music makes everything in life better.

It has brought her a husband, a career and a calling. It has sent her as far as London and as close as downtown Gainesville. The closer, the better, she said.

DeWitt, a UF alumna, will bring that music to Gainesville on Sunday when her band, Patchwork, performs at the Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival in the downtown historic district.

Patchwork, a folk band that sings of its love of Florida and cowgirl icons, was woven from the pieces of other bands.

Over the years, the bands have changed, but DeWitt’s two loves, music and Gainesville, have remained.

Most of the band members had played with each other before. If they weren’t already friends, they became so.

“This whole Gainesville music scene, I have a name for it,” said DeWitt, who sings in the band and plays guitar and piano. “It’s platonic incest.”

DeWitt started Patchwork with Janet Rucker and Jolene Jones, two friends. They all sang doo-wop backup vocals in The Rhythm & Blues Revue, a popular local band in the 80’s.

She met her husband, Rob, through that band. He was a drummer, and he insisted that DeWitt audition for him before she could join.

She was single at the time, and found herself spending late nights at restaurants with Rob after the gigs.

“I started to like him,” she said.

They were together for eight years before they got married 17 years ago. He helps produce DeWitt’s CDs and prepare for her shows.

It’s an unexpected fringe benefit, she said jokingly.

She said she didn’t learn music at school.

As the daughter of a St. Petersburg Times employee and an English teacher, she grew up helping her mother grade creative writing papers. She graduated from UF in the 1970s with a journalism degree.

Music is in her blood. Her father was also a New Orleans jazz musician before DeWitt’s mom made him get “a real job,” she said.

And writing hasn’t strayed far from her heart. She writes song lyrics and has won awards for songwriting, including two from the 2006 Unisong International Songwriting Contest.

When she isn’t on stage, she’s singing at Shands at UF. She plays for the patients. She said it helps them.

On her first day at the Arts in Medicine program, DeWitt sang as her friend Janet strummed a banjo, unsure of what would happen.

Parents wheeled their children from the hospital rooms, IV poles in tow, following the sound of the twanging notes.

She said the kids laughed and danced as much as their bodies could manage.

She has worked there for 16 years and considers it the most positive way to use music.

Another time she went into a young boy’s room and found him in his bed, curled in pain.

His mother asked DeWitt to watch him so she could find a nurse to give him more pain medicine.

DeWitt went up to him with a handheld harp. She began to strum it for him.

“Would you like to try it?” she asked him.

He sat up and, without saying a word, strummed the harp slowly and softly for 10 minutes.

“He forgot about his pain,” she said.


Music in the Operating Room–What Should it Be?

March 19th, 2011

I got involved in this dialog after reading an article by surgeon Rahul Parikh in Salon online ( March 7th, about the music he listens to while operating on patients. It made me want to ask this question. I hope you’ll join the discussion!

As a musician whose day job for sixteen years has been providing music at the hospital, from the lobby to the ICU to the bedside, I have given a lot of thought to this question. Even though there are generalizations in countless publications and many research projects about certain kinds of music having a specific effect on people, the truth is that music is subjective, and what one person finds beautiful, another may find annoying. While a masterpiece to most, Pachelbel’s Canon is just pabulum to some. Next to intuition and kindness, my most valuable skill in the hospital is having an eclectic repertoire.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Concetta Tomaino, co-founder and Director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, and faculty member at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. When asked by aspiring music therapists, “What IS the best kind of music to play for the patient?” she replies “The kind the patient wants to hear.” And this, of course, may vary according to the situation the patient is in, and what the desired effect may be. Music can be used in physical therapy to motivate and improve motion. A weekly sing-along in the hallway of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit creates community within that population of patients and family members. And certainly, when someone is anxiously awaiting surgery, the musical prescription would be for whatever music that patient finds calm and soothing.

This then begs the question: in the operating room, who should be hearing the music they like—the patient, or the doctor? Research shows that even while unconscious, your sense of hearing may remain intact. So, if you’re about to go under the knife, would you rather have your favorite music playing, or the music that makes your surgeon feel comfortable and at their best?

At a hospital in Houston, a classical harpist and an anesthesiologist teamed up for a research project where live harp music was played for patients in the O.R. This resulted in a decrease in the amount of anesthetic needed, a very positive effect for the patient. But, we don’t want to anesthetize the surgeon, now, do we?

Fortunately, our options for listening to our own favorite songs have changed, with the advent of personal listening devices. So, in theory, the patient could be listening to “their” music while the surgeon does also. But what about the rest of the medical team? They all have to communicate with each other, so each one can’t really be dancing to a separate iPod. Should the surgeon just blast his/her favorite music across the room on the O.R. speakers, even if it’s Nine Inch Nails? I think the delicate art of compromise, something which seems to have become a rare gift, may be called for in this situation. Any way you look at it (or listen to it,) it is tricky.

What do YOU think?

Cathy DeWitt, Musician in Residence, Shands Arts in Medicine, Gainesville, FL

P.S. Being a musician, I can’t just ignore or “tune out” music. I am annoyed by the ubiquitous pop music that plays everywhere I go. I can’t shop, eat out, go to the beach or even take off in an airplane without hearing a batch of pre-programmed pop radio assaulting my ears. I guess personal listening devices are one defense against this constant barrage of un-requested tunes. (Remember requests? You used to call them in when there were live deejays playing music on your local radio station. But, that’s another soapbox…)

Creating Community With Music at the Bedside in 10 Steps

June 27th, 2010

Recently I’ve had a lot of folks asking me about our Arts in Medicine program at Shands ( With our Summer Intensive coming up in July, and the webinar I co-hosted last week for the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (, I’ve been collecting a lot of resource material. I thought I would post this simple guideline to entering a room as a musician in a hospital or healthcare setting. Hope you find it helpful!

MATERIALS NEEDED:  A musical instrument such as a guitar, bowed psaltery, ukulele, dulcimer, or rolling keyboard, the book “Rise Up Singing” and your voice.

1. Carrying and perhaps playing the instrument, stop and look into the room.

2. If the patient looks interested, ask if they would like to hear a song.

3. Ask where they are from, what kind of music they like, whether they have a favorite song or artist.

4. Invite them to sing with you. You can either do this right away, or sing one first and then ask “Would you like to sing one with me?”  Often if you start singing a song they like, they will join in without having to be asked.

5. If they can’t think of anything, give them the Rise Up Singing book to look at.

6. Pick a song from the book or a song of the patient’s choice and sing it with or for them. If family or friends are visiting, give them the opportunity to participate as well.

7. If there is another patient in the room who also seems to be enjoying the music, invite them into the process, perhaps opening the curtain between the beds if needed. ASK FIRST: “May I open this?”

8. Repeat the process with that patient and their visitors, if any. Nine times out of ten, there will be a connection of some sort discovered between the patients— the music, where they are from, what their illness is, the career of the family members, etc.

9. You have now created a small community within the room. Even if it’s just you and one patient, you have made a community by sharing the gift of music.

10. Music can also have personal therapeutic benefits for the patient, including: relaxation, distraction from their pain, alleviating their loneliness and/or depression, taking them temporarily out of their environment, serving as a memory trigger to remind them of and recapture a more pleasant experience. Music can be chosen for these specific reasons.

The patient may have a story to share that’s brought on by the music. This may result in conversation among family members, visitors, roommates, etc.  Sometimes even if the patient is asleep, or unconscious, it may be the family members who really want and need the music. It has benefits for them as well!