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Saturday, May 25, 2024

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 on the side. “It’s platonic incest.”

DeWitt joined Patchwork with two friends who previously sang doo-wop backup vocals in a rhythm-and-blues band while she played piano.

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

She was single at the time, and she said she didn’t have much to go home to.

She spent late nights at restaurants with Rob instead.

“I started to like him,” she said.

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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 a 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 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.

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