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A Healing Haven of Song

Madras muscian releases new CD

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Dee Werner at home in Madras.


   The clear, beautiful voice of Dee Werner has soothed Romanian children, opened the Collage of Culture, entertained at coffee houses, and provided comfort to entire communities at the funerals of Bob Ervin and the Roe family.
   Werner has loved music since childhood, but said the songs she sings and writes now are more of a ministry. She produced a tape of songs in 1995 and has sold all 1,000 copies, and just recently released her first CD called "Make Me A Lighthouse."
   Judging by several song titles, which deal with personal tragedies, one might think the Lighthouse CD would be depressing. But when you hear it, Werner's friendly voice and upbeat melodies stand out, floating above the somber subject matter.
   "It's more of a healing CD. Some people have listened to it and told me they felt like they had a back rub," she said, adding, "It's inspirational, and shows that there is hope."
   And who would know better how to help those in the midst of a tragedy than a hospice nurse?
   In the medical profession for 15 years, Werner has worked as a nurse at Mountain View Hospital, St. Charles Surgery Center, and currently for Home Health and Hospice at Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville.
   Being a hospice nurse is like being a midwife, she said, noting, "You're watching them being born into a new life."
   Werner observed, "Nobody wants to die, but the fact of the matter is our bodies are only temporary and they wear out." Her job is to make the person as comfortable as she can during the transition, and she said she has sung to several people to soothe them as they were dying.
   "People are very real when they are dying, and it's powerful to be a part of that process, though it is draining," Werner said.
   She began honing her musical talents in junior high when she sang in the school choir and a Beauty Shop quartet. But stagefright was a problem. "I was O.K. to sing, but was so afraid of microphones when I talked that I said I had `microphobia.'" she related, adding, "I started going to the Assembly of God Church about 10 years ago, where I played the keyboard, and that built my confidence."
   She took four years of piano lessons, and in college studied music theory and voice for one year. At college she met and sang with an accomplished female vocalist, who encouraged her to write her own songs. The first complete song she penned was one she sang at her wedding.
   Others included songs written for her family, lullabies for her children, and ones about other people's experiences she became a part of through her occupation.
   As a part of Northwest Medical Teams, she traveled to Romania on two different occasions to help perform corrective eye and orthopedic surgery on children who couldn't afford it otherwise.
   "I worked in the recovery room, where they came after surgery," she said, noting she used the universal language of music to reassure the youngsters. "They didn't know what I was saying, but through the music they knew the love that was there and that they were being cared for."
   There is a real story behind just about every song on the "Lighthouse" CD. "Torn Away" is one written for a friend whose young brother was missing for nine years before she learned he had been murdered.
   Several songs have been composed for the funerals of people she knew. One older woman was afraid of being left alone if her husband died first. Her husband told her not to worry -- if he went first he would wait for her just beyond the moon. Werner later wrote and sang "Just Beyond The Moon" at his funeral to remind his wife of the promise.
   When well-known Madras paramedic Bob Erwin was struck and killed by a truck while responding to a highway accident, Werner wrote "I Can't Wait To See You Again" for his wife and sang it at his funeral. When a mother and three children of the Roe family in Culver perished in a car-train accident, Werner sang "Don't Cry For Me" at their funeral. In both cases, her music directly asked the questions and expressed the anguish people were feeling, in a way the spoken word could not.
   She has composed tunes for celebrations as well. "Stand Together" was written and sung by Werner and a multi-cultural choir for the opening ceremonies of Madras' Collage of Culture. She performed at the dedication of Prineville's Vietnam Memorial, and enjoys singing at area churches, Holy Grounds Coffee House, and other events. This summer, she will be traveling and sharing her music at state prisons in Idaho, Washington and Oregon as part of the Freedom Team ministry.
   Musical talent runs in the family. Her daughter, Rachel Gleason, 21, who is currently a missionary in India, sings and has released a CD of her own to music with an ethnic beat. A few years ago, Rachel won the Talent Show at the Jefferson County Fair. Werner's son, Seth Gleason, 19, who attends Oregon State University, plays drums, guitar and trumpet. An budding artist, he drew the picture of the lighthouse that is featured on Werner's new CD.
   Producing a professional-quality CD is quite costly, due to the sound studio rental, and editing done after the music is recorded.
   "Stand Together cost about $1,000 because it had so many voices to edit. On the average, it costs $300 to $500 per song," Werner said.
   Add to that the cost of a graphic artist to colorize her son's pencil drawing and design the CD cover, and the expense of copying a thousand CDs, and the total Lighthouse CD cost a whopping $10,000 to produce.
   Even so, the CD sells for only $12. It is available locally at Opal Day Spa, Hatfield's Department Store, Hometown Drug, and the Mountain View Hospital Auxiliary Gift Shop, as well as stores in Redmond, Prineville and Bend. The CD can also be ordered directly through the Web site CDbaby.com. Click on Dee Werner at the Web site to hear a two minute sample of four of the songs. Werner can be contacted for singing engagements or more information at 788-7345.
   Her next project is to redo her first music tape "Dry Bones Arise" as a CD, then as funds allow, to produce a third 10-song CD of more upbeat music. She would like to pursue music as a full-time traveling ministry, and is serious enough about it that she and her husband are trying to sell their large house and downsize to finance that goal.
   Until then, she is hoping her Lighthouse CD will find its way to the people who need to hear it and its message of hope.
   "If I can do anything, I want to bring hope to people who feel broken," Werner said, noting, "Each song points people in their tragedy back towards God."