After finishing a recent shift in the pediatric emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Yaffa Vitberg hauled her cello to rehearsal to prepare for the annual fall concert.
Joining her was Dr. Edward Moss, a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and a 60-year veteran of the clarinet, along with dozens of other doctors, residents, students, and additional members of the medical community throughout New York City who constitute the Music and Medicine Orchestra.
Music is an essential part of the holiday season, a time of song and celebration, and every year the orchestra contributes good cheer.
The Music and Medicine Initiative at Weill Cornell Medicine was founded in 2008 by Dr. David Shapiro, who served on the admissions committee and noticed that many medical school applicants had serious musical backgrounds. He created the program to make it possible for students to “continue their musical lives while they were on campus.”
“Many physicians and scientists have a passion for music,” says Dr. Shapiro, attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Today, the program includes a jazz ensemble, an a cappella group, chamber music groups, and a full orchestra. The latter performed its annual fall concert for the public November 21 at Caspary Auditorium at Rockefeller University. The program featured works by Mozart, Camille Saint-Saens, and Felix Mendelssohn. There is also a concert every spring.
Kyunghun Kim, the conductor, has been with the orchestra since 2014.
“It’s a beautiful hall,” Kim says, “and all these people dressed up and taking the music so seriously and so pleasantly — it is quite special for them to pour out their hearts into the concert.”
The musicians are grateful for the opportunity to flex their artistic muscles, too, and pledge to attend at least five of the six rehearsals that take place before each concert.
“It’s very important in medicine to keep your hobbies. And this is one hobby that I truly love,” says Dr. Vitberg, who has played with the orchestra four years and sometimes dashes to rehearsal in her scrubs. “I look forward to it every time we have rehearsals and concerts.”
Peter Hung, a fourth-year student at Weill Cornell Medicine who plays violin, viola, and piano, says he counts on music to help him relax. “On Monday nights, we get to put down our white coats and medical equipment, take over our instruments, and just have fun. We find relaxation in doing what we love.”