An eclectic award-winning songwriter and musician, Cathy DeWitt has shared the stage and the airwaves with Tom Paxson, Pete Seeger, Garrison Keillor, and jazz pianists Dave Frischberg and Rob Bargad. She has been a guest speaker and musician at spiritual retreats, churches and conferences throughout the country, and has provided music for Bernie Siegel, Alan Cohen, Marianne Williamson, and Wayne Dyer. As a well known advocate for the arts, human rights, and the environment, she was presented with the Stetson Kennedy Foundation award in 2015, “for the inspiration and understanding that her music communicates.” In 1994 she found an unexpected setting for her musical versatility: the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program in Gainesville, Florida, where she has spent over twenty years pioneering the music program. From piano playing in the hospital lobby to elevator singalongs, from hallway concerts to bedside harp in the ICU’s, Cathy has used music to transform the hospital environment and the patient experience.
As an expert in the field she was commissioned by VSA Florida and the Department of State to write and edit “Piece by Piece: Building Successful Arts in Healthcare Programs.” The handbook is based on multiple consultations with healthcare facilities throughout the state. Since then she continues to present workshops and seminars for universities, arts agencies, hospitals, and eldercare facilities. She was a national consultant for the Society for the Arts in Healthcare and a certified trainer for the National Center for Creative Aging. Through her work with the Florida Center for Creative Aging, the University of Florida was chosen as a host site for the NIH/NEA funded Vital Visionaries project in 2006 and 2007-08. Her consult clients include Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech, San Diego Hospice, the Alzheimer’s Association, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and the Royal Hospital in London. She is the winner of a Fetzer Grant for her Healing Music Programs, the Florida Arts Council Individual Artist Enhancement Grant, the National League of Penwomen Award for Music, and the 2010 Musician of the Year in her hometown of Gainesville, Florida.
Why an AIM artist?
As a musician, I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to use my talent for good, to bring people joy and make them feel better. Actually, I never expected to do this in a hospital setting! I had heard about Arts in Medicine and thought it was a great idea, but I wasn’t one who liked being around illness and pain. It wasn’t easy for me to take that first step through those doors. But, when I became involved with Arts in Medicine, I found that the rewards far outweighed the costs. The joy I can bring someone with just one song is amazing and immediate, their appreciation obvious and heartfelt. There are certainly tough days when you lose people and you feel weighed down. The hospital is a place of great miracles as well as tragedies, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. I feel at home here.