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Published on January 21, 2010

Hospice Patients Collaborate on Music CD

January 21, 2010 - Daily Chronicle by Carrie Frillman

DeKalb County Hospice music therapist Jen Conley said her music is not about creating a legacy for herself, but for others.

"These songs tell a story about a patient and about their family," she said, in reference to a CD that features songs by hospice patients. "This process ... gives the patients a sense of purpose, even in the final stage of their lives."

Conley is producing a CD of 18 original hospice songs 13 are written by hospice patients and their families, and five musicians' pieces are instrumental. The music gives patients an avenue for self expression, she said.

Funding for the project comes in part from a more than $2,100 grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation. The total cost to produce the CD is about $3,600, said Deanna Cada, program manager from the DCCF.

"We've supported music with hospice before and they've shown that it's just so helpful to the patients of hospice and the families as well," she said. "It's healing for the ... people living through this."

Grant money for the CD was presented by DCCF Board Member, Lana Haines, whose mother was comforted by Conley's harp music during hospice care. DeKalb County Hospice is a nonprofit organization committed to providing end-of-life care and bereavement support.

"(The music) was a lovely way for my mother and I to share a special peacefulness and tenderness during her final days," Haines said.

Stories, poems, spiritual writings and letters generated lyrics for songs on the CD, Conley said. Patients then selected melodies for the narratives.

All but one of the hospice patients who have work on the upcoming CD have died, Conley said.

Hinckley resident Kara Christiansen said her father was of those patients. She recalled her family sharing memories with Conley, who used them for the CD.

"It's nice to have a song to remember all those good times," she said. "We have told people it was one of, if not the best, thing that happened to us throughout the whole hospice experience."

Her mother, Kathy Christiansen, agreed, adding that it was uplifting for her husband and reinforced bonds among family members.

"Now we have this memory that we can listen to over and over again," she said.

DeKalb County Hospice is partnering with the Northern Illinois University School of Music, The Music & Sound Company of Sycamore and several musicians on the project. The fact that it was collaborative in nature was among aspects considered by the DCCF when awarding grant money, Cada said.

The CDs will be free for hospice patients and families, and available for purchase by community members, Conley said.

"We want the families ... to have this opportunity to see a tribute and hear a piece that their loved one created," she said. "I really see this having a broad application as a bereavement tool, not just for people featured on the CD, but for others too."

If You Go
A CD release event will be held at 7 p.m. April 24 at Blumen Gardens, 403 Edward Street in Sycamore. A number of musicians featured on the CD will be present to perform. The disc will be available for purchase for $18. Funds generated through sale of the music will further support DeKalb County Hospice's music therapy program. For more information, call 815-756-3000.

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