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Health Column: New program offers music at the bedside

Music, said Gregory Garrett, can have a “tremendous” effect on people.

“It unlocks memories. It unlocks feelings and emotions that we don’t even remember we had,” said Mr. Garrett, executive vice president and administrator of health services at Peconic Landing.

“It brings back feelings of a time that creative positive emotions for us.”

So when Diane Giardi, director of education at East End Arts in Riverhead, approached Mr. Garrett with the idea of having volunteer musicians perform at the bedsides of end-of-life and dementia patients at the Greenport facility, he knew she’d tapped into something special.

“I immediately knew it was a great idea,” said Mr. Garrett, who said Peconic Landing currently has a program that provides patients with iPods with custom playlists. “We believe strongly that music can be extremely beneficial to our residents and particularly to people who are maybe living with dementia or near the end of life.”

Enter East End Arts “Music by the Bedside” program, which will launch at Peconic Landing Oct. 30 and continue indefinitely. Patients or their families can request that a musician sing or play for them, Mr. Garrett said. Each performance will likely last between 15 and 30 minutes.

“We are looking forward to a one-on-one sharing of music and time with Peconic Landing’s comfort care residents,” Ms. Giardi said. “It is an enrichment experience both for the receiver and the musicians.”

The program’s first volunteer musician will be Sheree Elder of Westhampton Beach, an East End Arts alumna who sings, plays piano and has a radio show on 91.7 FM.

“I’m really excited to do it because I’m the choir director at my church and during Christmastime we go to the nursing home and sing Christmas carols,” Ms. Elder said. “So I’m very familiar being with people who are in care centers.”

During her set at Peconic Landing, during which she will perform separately for two patients, Ms. Elder plans to sing a mixture of spirituals and light jazz — “things that are soft but classic,” she said.

“Music is known for bringing peace,” Ms. Elder said. “So for people who are in that phase of their life, it can definitely uplift them.”

Musicians interested in volunteering for “Music by the Bedside” may contact Ms. Giardi 631-369-2171 or [email protected].

Have a health column idea for Rachel Young? Email her at [email protected].