May 20, 2017
Triad Area Medical Orchestra nourishes the healers

Triad Area Medical Orchestra Nourishes the Healers
By Kathy Norcross Watts, Special Correspondent

May 20, 2017


It’s not unusual for medical professionals to be talented musicians, and the Triad Area Medical Orchestra (TAMO) enables those who have chosen to heal others to have an opportunity to sustain themselves with their other passion.

“The members of our orchestra specialize professionally in the healing of others, and this musical outlet can be a way of self-nourishing,” said Christopher James Lees. “It’s a really wonderful combination of people and of institutions.” Lees is the conductor of TAMO, associate professor of conducting at UNC School of the Arts and music director of the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra.

Music had been a part of Lucy Lan’s life since she began taking violin lessons at 6. She played until she finished college. In medical school, she felt a void.

“I missed the opportunity to play and noticed that many others in the medical profession did as well,” Lan said. Lan, a 2018 MD/MBA candidate, is finishing her studies at Cambridge.

Her classmate, Dr. Aaron Rothstein, a neurology resident at New York University and Wake Forest University Medical School graduate, Class of 2015, inspired her to start a medical orchestra with Lees in the summer of 2015.

“We have a wonderful pool of talented musicians who are nurses, doctors, physician assistants, hospital technicians, biotech scientists, students, etcetera. in our community,” said Lan, who also founded TEDxWakeforestU in 2012. “Our purpose is to bring together musicians in the medical field (although we are open to non-medical folks as well!) as a place to create music, enjoy community and relieve stress. I believe in the power of local communities and social enterprise.”

In his research, Lees has found that every major city in the country has some form of this kind of orchestra, including the Longwood Symphony in Boston, with others in Los Angeles and Seattle.

He envisions TAMO will “be a catalyst to bring in wonderful people to this city and provide another outlet through which they can engage as an entire person. It’s one of those ways that we know a city is wonderful. A city that takes care of its citizens has that outlet if they need it.”

The musicians
The core of the orchestra is medical professionals, but other musicians are also welcome, said Gerardo Maradiaga, a clinical ethicist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He plays trombone and manages most of the administrative details of the orchestra.

“We recognized that the field of medicine depends on people from all disciplines and walks of life,” Maradiaga said. “When you take a moment to consider all of the people that any given hospital may employ, you quickly realize that modern medicine would not be possible without the help of health care providers, technicians, assistants, engineers, attorneys, accountants, researchers, educators, volunteers, and many other professions. So while our core orchestra is composed of medical professionals, we believe our orchestra is stronger by being inclusive of non-medical professionals. Finally, we recognize that one does not have to be a medical professional to have a passion for medicine and music.”

The orchestra rehearses for two hours on Sunday evenings, and UNCSA provides rehearsal and performance space. Maradiaga said TAMO musicians are lucky to have the support of UNCSA and Lees, as well as his conductor-in-training Daniel Bukin, who make a commitment to the orchestra despite their busy schedules.

“They’re excellent musicians,” Lees said. “I try and match appropriate pieces for our skill level and our instrumentation. It’s just challenging enough for us, but it’s not overwhelming.

Ellen Fox, a licensed marriage and family therapist, plays violin. She originally joined the orchestra to connect with other adults with similar musical interests, she said. She appreciates how much she’s learned from the other musicians and Lees and Bukin.

“Both bring a contagious joy and energy that inspires me to play better,” Fox said.

“As an adult violin student, I really enjoy being part of an ensemble of musicians. It is a delight to connect with the other musicians, learn from them, and create music together. What an opportunity — problem solving, collaborating, and playing beautiful music — all at the same time! And although many in the orchestra have very serious ‘real life’ careers, in the orchestra, we play for fun. In fact, our motto is, ‘We’re TAMO — and we’re chill!’”

Sara Lynch, a nursing student enrolled in the accelerated BSN program at Winston-Salem State University, plays the oboe and is one of the only professional musicians in the group.

She has a master’s degree in music, but in her late twenties decided to follow her other passion: helping others in the medical setting, she said. TAMO motivates her to keep practicing and enables her to network with other medical professionals.

“I have made a lot of friends, and I look forward to each rehearsal,” Lynch said. “TAMO has been a wonderful creative outlet for me. After countless hours of studying each week, I can come to rehearsal and completely forget about all of that for two hours each week. I hope to see TAMO grow in the coming years. Music is undoubtedly the most expressive way to communicate and connect with a group of people at once without saying a single word. I think musicians tend to carry that skill throughout all aspects of their lives, especially in their careers.”

Anna Goodman, editor at Northstar Travel Media, plays violin.

“A medical orchestra reminds us that a good doctor is an artist and a good musician is a healer,” she said.

Building community
Maradiaga said the orchestra has provided him an opportunity to connect with co-workers and members of the Piedmont Triad community in a unique way.

“Since joining TAMO, I’ve made new friends and gotten to know some of my co-workers, as well as more about their respective professions,” he said. “I’ve also found that TAMO provides me with a great outlet to relax and decompress from the stressors of modern daily life. You could say that it’s a form of healing for the soul.”

TAMO anticipates performing its second concert of 2017 in the fall. Concerts are free, and they welcome new members to join TAMO.

“One of our long-term goals is to be able to perform for audiences at hospitals, nursing homes, or other environments with patients and caregivers,” Maradiaga said.

They would eventually like to raise money through their concerts to help support the services provided at the Delivering Access to Care (DEAC) student-run free clinic, he said.

“In the meantime, I believe we benefit our community by offering an outlet for people to join and play alongside medical professionals at all stages of their medical training,” Maradiaga said. “It allows our non-medical and medical professionals alike to see that we’re not all that dissimilar, which is particularly important given the deep societal divisions that exist all over the world today.

“I think it’s important to not understate the healing effect music has on the body, mind, and human spirit.”

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