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Bringing a ray of sunshine

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It was about a year ago when Glen Cove residents Diane Menzel and Helen Kotzky met at the local YMCA. Kotzky was a retired music teacher who taught for more than two decades at the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District, and Menzel was a retired therapist who also dabbled in music. 

As the two immediately bonded over their love of singing, they soon decided to make the most of their retirements and formed The Sunshine Music Duo. The tow of them have played more than 55 performances all over the North Shore since the start of 2019, and they also hosted a presentation on the music of Broadway legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein at the Glen Cove Senior Center on Oct. 30. Kotzky said she was grateful for the opportunities she’s had to perform for others, adding that none of it would have been possible without her partner.  

“It really was unexpected that I would find someone who would want to sing with me,” Kotzky said. “I used to focus on teaching kids and getting them ready to harmonize, but now I can do that with a partner. I wasn’t even sure I could still harmonize.”    

The Sunshine Music Duo has found a niche in the senior community as they play at various assisted living facilities, the Glen Cove Senior Center and the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center Adult Daycare in Oyster Bay. Menzel explained that the sessions serve as a therapeutic experience for the seniors. As the duo played folk songs and classics from the 50s and 60s, they saw their audiences connect with the music, so Menzel added instructional lessons to allow the seniors to follow along with the music. 

“It feels amazing to be connected to them in that way,” Menzel said. “They love playing with us and sharing their stories. It can even get emotional sometimes.” 

“They’re incredible musicians and singers, and the way they interact with the audience is great,” said Eric Shuman, the activities coordinator for the Glen Cove Senior Center. “No matter what your age is, you can appreciate that kind of performance.”

As the duo enters their second year together, they’ve begun expanding to try to reach a younger demographic. The Sunshine Music Duo performed at The Glen Cove Boys and Girls Club’s open house event on Oct. 25, where Kotzky fell into her old teaching habits and enjoyed playing with the local children. Kotzky added that she also felt herself growing as a musician, especially when it came to The Sunshine Music Duo’s participation at the monthly Music Jam at the Sea Cliff Children’s Library. On the third Thursday of every month, musicians from all over Nassau County gather at the library to perform from a variety of genres. Kotzky said that the Music Jam has become a regular part of the duo’s life.

“Everyone at the Music Jam is very talented,” Kotzky said, “I learn some new stuff from them, and Diane and I are always working to find new songs to play and introduce there.” 

The Sunshine Music Duo will be playing at Glen Cove’s Glengariff Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center on Nov. 19, and at the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center Adult Daycare on Nov. 20. The next Music Jam will be held on Nov. 21.