Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Life Sciences Orchestra

I'll upload a picture from my last concert as soon as I have enough batteries to operate my camera again...

The Life Sciences Orchestra (LSO, from here on out) is my Sunday night study break, and part of what keeps me going during medical school. It is comprised of individuals from all facets of the life sciences community: medical students, residents, fellows, attending physicians, music therapists, public health professors and students, nurses, medical social workers, basic scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and more, as well as a few people whose connections are through someone else - partners and loved ones of individuals in the life sciences. (For those of you musical pre-meds out there, consider this as you weigh Michigan with other schools!) We get together weekly to rehearse, and we play two concerts a year. However, the LSO is a surprise to most people. It’s separate from all of the orchestras on campus for music majors and even separate from the campus orchestras for students who are non-music majors.

I’m not entirely sure why the LSO so shocking. Maybe everyone assumes that we don't/shouldn't have time for music. I'd counter that without time for music, most of us would be unable to function in our daily lives - in addition to providing a welcome exercise for some of the parts of the brain that aren't used in science it's a fantastic study break. Maybe everyone assumes that we're in the life sciences because we're not talented enough to be musicians. This is clearly false. While our primary passions are definitely in the life sciences, and there is a wide range of technical ability in the orchestra, there are some incredibly talented musicians populating operating rooms and clinics. (Additionally, I'd argue strongly that being a musician doesn't take talent, just a willingness to show up and have a good time.) Whatever the reason for the disbelief, the orchestra exists, and it's fantastic.

In addition to playing some fantastic music (this season is comprised of an incredible amount of popular classical pieces - William Tell Overture and Peer Gynt Suite, among others), and being a delightful distraction, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know people in various points a long their career, and arguably a convenient time for networking. I didn't realize this at first, but after a few months in the orchestra it began to sink in. A talented bassoonist I had known only through orchestra suddenly became the radiologist who lectured my M1 class. One of Michigan's most accomplished and renowned surgeons plays bass. One of the epidemiology professors I'll probably encounter next year sits in the cello section with me. The inspiring coordinator of the LGBT curriculum component is one of the LSO flautists. My stand partner is a pediatric emergency medicine fellow. I could go on and on. Through all of these wonderful folks I've gotten a glimpse of what’s to come. Through their dedication to music (and ability to make time in their schedules) they reassure me that when I make it through this mess of medical school (and soon enough public health), I’ll still be happy and well-adjusted enough to make beautiful music. That in and of itself is worth playing for.

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