On a blustery Sunday afternoon, more than 300 students and faculty attended the free, semi-annual Life Sciences Orchestra concert in Hill Auditorium.

LSO is one of the organizations included in the University’s Gifts of Art program, which brings a host of art and music programs to the University of Michigan Health System, according to Elaine Sims, the director of the University’s Gifts of Art.

Representing the science and medical communities at the University, the 71 members of the group range from undergraduate students to professors and doctors in the medical field.

The orchestra serves as an outlet for the high-stress jobs and intense studies of its members, said LSO co-founder Kara Gavin, who is also lead public relations representative for the University Health System. She also plays the French horn and is a member of the Executive Committee of the LSO.

David Brown, associate professor of otolaryngology and a founding member of the LSO, echoed Gavin’s sentiments.

“It is a creative outlet for the people playing in it, but it’s also an opportunity for others to hear a performance by their friends, family members and their colleagues, and to showcase their talents,” Brown said.

With a theme based on water, the concert included performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” Op. 27, Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73 and Claude Debussy’s “La Mer,” all performed under Music Director Adrian Slywotzky.

“I looked at the recent of history of the LSO and tried to explore more composers that the orchestra hadn’t played in the past few years so that the players could have a little bit of variety,” Slywotzky said. “Since we have a long season … it’s important to find music that will keep us engaged for that many hours.”

In a lecture before the concert, Slywotzky presented historical information about the music and composers that were featured in the concert. He also prompted the audience to listen for various aspects of the compositions.

Gifts of Art is not funded by the University, and therefore relies on donations from its members and friends and family.

For the first time in the concert’s 14-year history, an individual donation underwrote the performance. The donation came from Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and professor of musicology. Monts announced earlier this year that he will step down from his administrative position after holding it for 20 years. He will shift his focus to his faculty position and research starting in July.

“For me, I’m always a little nervous until the second piece but I thought it (the concert) was lovely,” Sims said. “Every year it gets better.”

In preparation for the concert, the LSO practiced almost every Sunday beginning in September. The group will continue practicing for their next free and public concert on April 27.

Brown said LSO formed when he decided to expand his “doctor’s quintet” into something larger so that others could also contribute.

“I met with Elaine Sims and Kara Gavin and a few others in August of 2000,” he said. “We scurried and had auditions (for the LSO) that September and that’s when the orchestra started.”

In the beginning, the orchestra was going to be for leisurely activity, to get together and play music, according to Surgery Prof. Robert Bartlett, a founding member of the group.

“After the first couple of weeks we said, ‘Alright, we have to play at some point,’” he said.

All LSO members and aspiring members have to audition yearly for a chance to perform with the group. The process involves playing an intricate piece of music for the music director and one member of the executive committee.

“There is that strange connection between medicine, music and science, and so there are just so many people who are … just thrilled to be able to have music back in their lives because of the LSO,” Sims said.

LSA sophomore D’Arcy Cook said she has been playing with the LSO since she auditioned her freshman year.

“When I was in high school my French horn teacher helped me explore possible ways to keep playing French horn even though I didn’t want to be a music major,” Cook said. “There was campus orchestra and everything but one of the orchestras that’s good for the science people is LSO, so that was one of the three or so orchestras that was an option for me.”

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