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Culture Watch: Music to the Ears of Those Who Need It

The Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest is helping fund a new music therapy program at Florida Gulf Coast University.


Most of the press about the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest starts with the money it donates to the Golisano Children’s Hospital. And for good reason. Millions have gone to help add equipment and now construct the new building.

But for the last two years, a sliver of the money raised—$400,000—has found its way to an interesting new project on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University, one that has the potential to benefit not just children but a host of others who are suffering in the community.

When they agreed to donate $2.5 million in 2006 to help found the Bower School of Music, Alan and Marilyn Korest were adamant about one thing. In addition to creating a program for performance and education majors, the school had to create a music therapy program.

For the past eight years, Cathy Albergo, the school’s director, has been building up the school to be ready to add this promised piece. Last year, she brought on Michael Rohrbacher to begin laying the foundation for what they hope will be the first fresh- man class in the fall of this year.

“We had to get the base built first,” Albergo says. “You had to have a solid performance and education foundation or it wouldn’t work.”

At its most basic, music therapy takes William Congreve’s oft mis- quoted line “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” and gives it clinical applications. Be it helping Parkinson’s patients deal with the disease through rhythm or teaching developmentally challenged children through song, music has broad applications, Rohrbacher says.

“Music therapists work in schools, in nursing homes, in hospitals, in hospice,” he says. “It’s not just recreation or entertainment. It’s amazing all the research that shows what can happen when music is introduced.”

The myriad applications and research are important not just to
the work, but to Albergo and Rohrbacher’s quest to get the new program approved not just by FGCU officials, but by state supervisors as well. Only two music therapy programs exist in Florida—at Florida State and University of Miami—but the field is not yet large. And one of the criteria for adding a program in the age of education reform and funding concerns is the number of jobs available to potential graduates going forward.

This is an area where the FGCU team thinks it has a good argument for the future of its program. Music therapy is a small field, with a few thousand people working nationally and only 13 working professionals in Southwest Florida. But it’s growing.

“As more people become aware of it and the service to the community, there are a lot of venues people can work in,” Rohrbacher says.

Unlike a lot of new majors, Albergo says, this program feels special because it has a large degree of buy-in from the community. Not only has the Wine & Food Fest put up $400,000 for scholarship money, but the benefactors are lined up to do even more. And the people working in the field are starting to come for- ward to offer guidance for potential interns.

If all goes according to plan, the school hopes to enroll 12 to 15 fresh- men in its initial class this fall, with students taking an interdisciplinary approach that will see them studying music, education, psychology, occupational therapy and more.

“Music is so pervasive in our society,” Rohrbacher says. “There’s a sense of goodness about music. This is just another way to get it out into the community to help people.”


Terrific 20

One of Naples' leading galleries, Gardner Colby, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a blockbuster exhibition of 20 of the artists it has represented over the years. From the organic sculptural work of Ran Adler to the dreamy plein-air landscapes of Frank Corso, the gallery has an eclectic group of contemporary Amer-ican and international artists. The Naples gallery began in the mid-’90s as a winter home for the Cape Cod- based Tony and Nancy Winch. But after a decade of split residencies, the couple sold their Northern interests to focus solely on Southwest Florida. The results are a spectacular stable
of artists whose work ranges from
the hyper-realism of Edward Minoff’s wave paintings to the magical realism acrylics of Kevin Sloan. The anniversary show runs Feb. 13-28 at the gallery, 386 Broad Ave. S. in Naples. gardnercolbygallery.com

Must-See of the Month

For 30-somethings like me, Mandy Patinkin calls to mind two indelible characters—Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and Saul Berenson on Homeland. The first is a beloved figure of childhood, a man on a mission to avenge his father’s death. The second, a calming figure in a world gone horribly mad.

What many of us are missing, though, is Mandy Patinkin, Broadway superstar. He won a Tony originating the role of Che in Evita and was nominated for another for originating Georges Seurat in Sunday in the Park with George. He’s known as one of the premier interpreters of the works of Stephen Sondheim in the world.

See him in this light as he takes the stage at Hayes Hall to perform songs from his one-man revue, Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual, featuring the work of Irving Berlin, Sondheim, Cole Porter and more. artisnaples.org


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