P&S Journal: Winter 1995, Vol.15, No.1
P&S Musicians' Guild: Music to Study By
By Sara M. Silberman
Instruments of the medical kind are not the only instruments of choice at P&S. Legend has it that Columbia has more musically minded students and faculty members than any other medical school in the country. The network that connects these musicians to each other is the P&S Musicians' Guild, coordinated by Julie Lin'96 and Frank David, an M.D.-Ph.D. trainee.
These two students had music in mind when they decided to attend Columbia. "At my interview," recalls Mr. David, "one student who took me on a tour was involved with the Bard Hall Players. They had just put on 'West Side Story' with full pit orchestra and full choreography. I thought that was amazing. For the rest of my interviewing season, I kept looking back on Columbia and remembering the arts scene."
Ms. Lin shared this observation, but they noted one drawback of the musical scene that greeted them when they arrived at P&S. "There did not seem to be a way for people to get in touch with each other to play music." Together, they came up with several ways to encourage interaction among Columbia's many musicians.
"We publish a directory in the fall, which lists musicians by their instruments, along with phone numbers and addresses," says Mr. David. "Last year, a couple of rock bands were formed because of the directory. People use it to get together to play informal chamber music. The Bard Hall Players refer to it when they need a pit orchestra for a musical."
The Musicians' Guild coordinators use the directory to put together the Bard Chamber Orchestra, which performs at Alumni Association functions and has a concert each fall. In the spring, the guild organizes one or two formal chamber music concerts. This year's Bard Chamber Orchestra concert, held in November in the Alumni Auditorium, featured Franz Schubert's "Symphony No. 5," Richard Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll," and madrigals performed by the newly formed P&S Madrigal Singers.
Most members of the Musicians' Guild are classical musicians, but this year has been marked by an abundance of rock and folk guitarists and a dearth of drummers and bassists.
Although Ms. Lin and Mr. David coordinate some interactions, they prefer to see guild members take the initiative. "A lot of people who called this year said they had played with various groups through college and they were interested in getting into another serious group," notes Mr. David. "That's the way we function: People form their own groups, then we do the nitty gritty work to set up concerts. We have a small budget and ties with the alumni association, so we take care of the publicity, programs, and receptions. We make sure everything runs smoothly."
The Musicians' Guild is not just for students. "We have faculty members and computer programmers who perform as well as graduate students," says Ms. Lin. "It is important for medical school students to see that, even at a later stage in their careers, doctors still keep playing music. These faculty members have inspired the students."
One faculty member, Dr. Nicholas Cunningham, professor of clinical pediatrics and of clinical public health, has played in the Bard Hall Orchestra for two years. The Musicians' Guild holds a concert each spring to benefit Dr. Cunningham's parenting center programs. "It's a great opportunity for people to play," says Mr. David. "We have all sorts of music being performed-a cappella, jazz, classical, and show tunes."
P&S musicians also are in demand for private functions. "Now that people affiliated with the medical center know of the Musicians' Guild, they ask for recommendations," says Mr. David. "For example, we got a call from a neurosurgeon at the end of the summer. He was getting married and needed a group to play at the wedding. We contacted some musicians and gave them his number."
Although audiences at concerts, wedding receptions, and informal jams enjoy the music performed by guild members, the real rewards are meant for the musicians themselves. "The main reason why the group exists is for the performers," says Mr. David. "We exist to help people get together and play music, in public if that is what they want. Whether 70 people come to listen, or 300, is besides the point. Of course, we would love it if more people would come, but the main issue is giving people a chance to play."