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Rhythm Therapy: Drum concert benefits hospice here and abroad

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 1:54 p.m. CDT
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(Debbie Behrends - dbehrends@shawmedia.com)
Members of the Harambee Percussion Ensemble, a group of DeKalb elementary schoolchildren, hold up photos of South Africa. The group will perform at the Transformation Through Rhythm concert on March 15. The concert benefits KishHealth System Hospice and its sister facility, Knysna-Sedgefield Hospice in Knysna, South Africa.

It’s all about the rhythm when KishHealth System Hospice sponsors the third annual benefit concert, Transformation Through Rhythm, at 3 p.m. March 16 at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building at Northern Illinois University.

Performers include the DeKalb High School Percussion Ensemble, the NIU Percussion Ensemble, NIU Bau-House and the Harambee African Percussion Ensemble, a group of DeKalb elementary school students. Organizers hope to raise awareness of the need for music therapy, bringing diverse groups together through music, while giving young adults an opportunity to be of service by sharing their talents.

Proceeds from the performance help support KishHealth System Hospice’s music therapy program, which is funded primarily through donations and grants, and help support its sister organization, Knysna-Sedgefield Hospice in Knysna, South Africa.

Concert admission is free; donations are appreciated.

Music is a communal, human ritual, said hospice music therapist Jen Conley.

“Music engages more regions of the brain than any other stimulus,” Conley said. “It’s linked to memory in a powerful way.”

She said that even people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease can recall lyrics they knew many years ago, and will be lucid for as long as 30 minutes after being engaged with music.

KishHealth System Hospice fully incorporates music therapy into its services. At any given time, Conley is seeing 60 percent to 80 percent of hospice patients and families. She also is involved in the Transitions Program and children’s bereavement groups.

Conley said donations from the 2013 concert provided more than 50 food parcels for the South African hospice. And students in the Harambee African Percussion Ensemble are excited to help.

“It feels good to help other people,” said sixth grader Clare Corbin.

Fifth grader Norah Sands agreed: “It makes me feel good to help someone else doing something I love.”

Now in its 13th year, the group of DeKalb students meets two Saturdays a month at Cortland Elementary School. All are hand-picked by their music teachers, directors Sherry Jones and Sharon McKee.

“These are the kids that can’t get enough drumming,” Jones said. “They want more drumming, more singing, more dance.”

They audition during their general music classes, without knowing they are auditioning, Jones said. She said the musicians who start with Harambee often continue on to become key percussionists at the high school and college levels.

“And the friendships they make here last through high school,” Jones said.

Knysna-Sedgefield Hospice’s Transformation Through Rhythm program is for children ages 13 to 17 whose parents are in hospice care, many of whom are now orphans from AIDS. It offers therapeutic drumming circles to help the young people deal with their losses and the harshness around them, as many live in extreme poverty.

For more information about the Transformation Through Rhythm concert, call KishHealth System Hospice at 815-756-3000.

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If you go

• What: Transformation Through Rhythm, concert benefits KishHealth System Hospice and sister facility, Knysna-Sedgefield Hospice in Knysna, South Africa.

• When: 3 p.m. March 16

• Where: Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, Music Building, Northern Illinois University

• Admission: Free; donations appreciated.

• Information: Call KishHealth System Hospice, 815-756-3000

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