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The healing power of music (09/11/2013)
By Chris Rogers

Submitted photo
      John Bernadot (left) and Carla Burton (right) perform during a past Homer United Methodist Church Gospel Hour.
Homer United Methodist Gospel Hour this Sunday

Smoky bars filled with rock and roll, the scent of spilled beer, and "too many drugs" used to be typical gigs for Dakota native John Bernadot. Now, people listen to his music to tune in rather than tune out.

After Bernadot lost a wife to cancer and a daughter to a bicycle accident, he suffered a stroke and brain injury. Bernadot's heart stopped on the operating table during a subsequent brain surgery, and he says he encountered his daughter and wife in a near-death experience before his heart began beating again. Doctors told him his prospects for speech and memory function were grim, but music helped him beat the odds.

"If he hadn't been the multitasking music man he is, he probably never would have been able to talk again," explained Bernadot's friend and fellow church member JoAn Moham. "Making music creates all these special highways in your brain." Those connections helped Bernadot recover.

Now, as a music therapist, Bernadot helps other people rediscover mental and spiritual connections and joy. One disabled woman Bernadot played for could hardly open her eyes, he said. As Bernadot began playing, all of a sudden she began singing. "And she had the most amazing voice," he said. Here was this woman who could hardly do anything and she started singing and everyone was blown away, he explained. "It was unbelievable."

Over the years as a music therapist, Bernadot has helped a lot of people rediscover a love for music and a passion for life, he says.

His music breathed new life into Moham's church as well, she said. In 1993, The Homer United Methodist Church was struggling. As its members aged, attendance and financial support were dwindling. Moham came to Bernadot and said, "My church is dying," Bernadot recalls. "Well let's pack it with people," he replied. Bernadot took out his guitar, called some friends, and started the Homer United Methodist Annual Gospel Hour.

For 20 years, the church has hosted musical groups of all stripes from all over the country to play at a free music-only service. The jamboree is aired live on Winona Radio's KAGE 1380 AM.

The 20th annual Gospel Hour will be hosted on Sunday, September 15 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Homer United Methodist Church. KAGE 1380 AM will air the Gospel Hour performances from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. A Sunday lunch at the Homer Civic Center will follow the service.  


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