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Playing music is taking Navy vet, VA volunteer places

SALISBURY — When Krickit Shoemaker plays her flute, it takes her away to another place where stress and worry melt away. Because of her enthusiasm for playing music, it will also take her away to Reno, Nev., in October.
Shoemaker, a retired Navy veteran, was invited to go to the National Creative Arts Festival being held in Reno Oct. 21–27. Her invitation came as a result of her recent performance at the National Creative Arts competition which took place earlier this year. More than 6,100 entries from 119 VA facilities were submitted into local competitions in 53 three different categories.
Shoemaker placed first in the Instrumental Solo — Broadway category for her performance of “Somewhere” from the musical “West Side Story.” She also placed second in the Instrumental Solo — Inspirational category for performing “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” and third place in the Instrumental Solo — Classical category for performing “Allegro.”
While there will not be any flute performances at the nationals, Shoemaker will be recognized for her accomplishments and has been invited to be in a chorus.
“There will also be paintings and visual art displays. Just to see that and be around all of these other people will be great. It’s a big honor and to say I am excited is putting it very mildly,” she said.
Aleashia Brandon, supervisory recreation therapist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, said her team is excited for Shoemaker to have been chosen to attend the creative arts festival.
“We are very enthusiastic about Krickit’s acceptance into the national competition — representing our VA and her fellow veterans,” said Brandon. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Krickit to be able to showcase her musical talents and skills to the world.”
Shoemaker regularly volunteers her time to play for inpatient veterans at the Community Living Center. Brandon said Shoemaker’s performances enhance the quality of life for the inpatient veterans.
“The staff and veterans love to hear Krickit’s music. She is such a joy to have as a part of our VA family,” she said.
Terri Gilbeau, a recreation therapist at the Hefner VA, said Shoemaker is a “ball of fire” the veterans love.
“She is such a wonderful volunteer for our CLC veterans,” said Gilbeau. She said veterans are always asking when Shoemaker will be coming back to perform.
Playing the flute has been an interest for Shoemaker since she began playing in high school and some in college, but she took an extended break from playing when she joined the Navy. She began playing again in 2004 when she joined the Piedmont Prime Time Community Band based in Kannapolis.
“I joined the band and got started playing again. It was then when I found out what my forte is — which is to have a play along where I have background music and I play for the vets. That’s what I do mostly and that’s probably what has really developed my skills,” said the 61-year-old.
Shoemaker performs several times per year at the Salisbury VA, and she also plays at state retirement homes. She said she finds performing therapeutic for her audience as well as herself.
“It’s like therapy because when I play, I go somewhere else. When I play, you take air as my medium, and I turn it into music,” she said. “When I play, most of the time it just sort of relaxes me — it just takes you somewhere else. Even at home, I’ll go play just to calm down, just because it feels good to make the music.”
“I love sharing when I play for the vets here and at state homes,” she said. “I could and have played for other old folks homes, where they pay me, but I don’t care about that, it’s just my way of giving back to veterans.”
Cole Porter, Gershwin and Duke Ellington are among Shoemaker’s favorite composers, but one of her favorite pieces to play is “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller.
“That’s always my close out. It’s just so much fun; I practically dance up there because I get so wrapped up in it,” she said.
Gilbeau said Shoemaker isn’t the only one who enjoys her performances of the song.
“That song touches people who are in the advanced stages of dementia who generally don’t show much reaction. But when she plays that, you might look over and see their toe tapping,” said Gilbeau.
“I’m playing to my audience. If I can take them back for just a little bit, to some happy place, my job is done,” Shoemaker added. “It makes it all worthwhile because it’s all about them, and I try to groom my stuff for my audience.”

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