Musical stress relief

Dental students fill the UF Health Shands Atrium with calming classical notes

By Alexis Bajalia
Emily Tan, Coty Granatosky, second-year UF dental students

Emily Tan, Coty Granatosky, second-year UF dental students

Between their Monday morning and afternoon classes, second-year University of Florida College of Dentistry students Coty Granatosky and Emily Tan grab their musical instruments and head to the UF Health Shands Hospital Atrium. While doctors, visitors and students grab a bite to eat from the food court or scurry by, the students fill the busy room with soothing music.

Granatosky, 25, plays the violin while Tan, 23, plays the flute. The duo performs about seven to eight songs during a half-hour interlude, often to the surprise of their audience.

“A lot of people stop because we’re in our scrubs,” Tan said. “And they’re not used to hearing a violin or a flute.”

Granatosky and Tan are involved in the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, which focuses on incorporating arts into the health care setting to provide meaningful experiences for patients, visitors, caregivers and medical staff.

Both students grew up playing their instruments, and both were members of their high schools’ bands — Granatosky at Edgewood High School in Merritt Island and Tan at Lakeland Christian School. When they became classmates at the College of Dentistry, Tan persuaded Granatosky to participate in the Arts in Medicine program with her.

“We already have this talent,” Tan said. “We might as well use it to help people.”

The dental students said performing at the hospital each week gives them the opportunity to showcase and improve their talents, but they also choose to perform for personal reasons.

“We’re always in the same rooms studying for exams,” Granatosky said. “It’s a stress relief and a nice break from our days.”

When it comes to finding music, Tan searches Google for free violin and flute duets and prints them out. If the music they want to play is in a different musical clef or key, the students transpose the notes to a key they can perform. They then practice in their rare free time.

Playing mostly classical, folk and Irish music, Granatosky and Tan said they have received nothing but positive feedback from their audiences.

“We meet new people every week, and we sometimes get to hear their stories and learn more about them,” Granatosky said. “It’s really rewarding to hear them say we made their day.”

Richelle Janiec, director of quality assurance and clinical operations at the College of Dentistry, is one of the duo’s biggest fans. She stops by the Atrium every week to hear the students play, describing their music as “refreshing” and witnessing how their performances lift people’s spirits.

“If you watch the faces of the people walking through, sitting down or stopping to listen, you can see a change in expression,” Janeic said. “It’s delight that you see come over their faces.”

When one patient requested the duo play Canon in D by Pachelbel, Granatosky and Tan said they hadn’t practiced it before but decided to play it anyway. They said their performance left that patient in tears of joy.

“Sometimes we think we have it rough, but people in the hospital can have it really rough,” Granatosky said. “It’s nice to be able to make them happy and distract them for a little bit.”

Next year, Granatosky and Tan will begin more intensive clinical training, and their schedules will become even busier. But they said they hope to continue performing at the hospital, even if that means playing only once a month.

“It makes people’s days,” Tan said. “And it makes our days, too.”

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