During a rehearsal for an orchestra concert at Hill Auditorium, a beeper can go off without anyone so much as batting an eye. That’s because this is the Life Science Orchestra, a full amateur orchestra composed of 82 members of the University’s biomedical community. Esteemed radiologists, nurses, biomedical engineers, medical school professors and LSA pre-health students make up just some of the musicians in the group. The orchestra is open to virtually anyone in the health sciences at the University who has a passion and talent for music.
“There is a sort of understanding between us. I know when someone gets up and has to leave rehearsal, it isn’t because they left the oven on,” Ph.D. candidate in orchestral conducting and director Clinton Smith said in an interview. “They are most likely going somewhere to make a huge difference in someone’s life.”
Tomorrow, the orchestra will take the Hill Auditorium stage to perform Gustov Holst’s “Planets” Beethoven’s Egmont Overture as well as Edouard Lao’s Symphonie Espagnole. In the latter performance, University alum, Trina Stoneham will accompany the orchestra on the violin. Stoneham is currently an associate research technician in the Department of Pathology at the University Medical School.
Formed in 2000, the group brings together a wide range of people varying in age, talent and profession and makes the science world at the University a little smaller, inviting members to collaborate musically to display their talents in a different context.
“Within the orchestra, members experience a completely different dynamic than the one they’re used to,” said Kara Gavin, a health system spokeswoman and French horn player in the orchestra. “Instead of student or teacher, nurse or doctor here, it’s violin or oboe.”
Radiology Professor Dr. Michael DiPietro, a bassoon player, explained that music is something that levels the playing field for all of the orchestra’s members.
“We’re a group of people in the life sciences from age 20 to 60,” he said. “We can’t just play football together. We’re equals at this.”
The Life Science Orchestra’s musicians work in some of the University’s most demanding disciplines, yet they find time for the orchestra between studies, medical practices and research. Certain members have even come to rehearsal straight from the operating room.
“Very often I hear from people that the LSO serves as a release for them; a place to let go; to let someone else be in charge,” Smith said. “And it can be quite therapeutic.”
While some people might think of science and art as completely different disciplines, the Life Science Orchestra proves them wrong. DiPietro explained that the two are actually quite intertwined. He believes that his background in musical performance has aided him tremendously in the medical field, giving him the confidence to talk in front of a large group of people. Additionally, he sees a similarity between the two disciplines. In each you’re working to better something, whether that’s a person, a theory or a symphony.
“Very often it all comes together in the last few rehearsals,” DiPietro said. “I joke that this is like students pulling the course material together just before the final exam.”
Smith finds that the final performance always comes together well because while the group is relaxed, as health science professionals, they are perfectionists.
“The performances are always a joy because everything finally fits together just perfectly – players’ senses and awareness are heightened, and therefore, concentration is through the roof,” said Smith, the director. “This makes for really nuanced music making, and I am free to take risks with them and know they’ll be right there.”
Life Science Orchestra featuring “The Planets”
Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium