Music graces the medical campus

November 30, 2015

Every Thursday evening 50 doctors, nurses, medical students, residents, graduate students, and hospital volunteers gather for weekly rehearsals.

The Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra showcases the talent and collaboration in our community beyond the clinic, classroom, or lab.

On December 4 the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra (YMSO) will perform its 16th concert since its founding eight years ago. The orchestra is a dedicated group of about 50 residents, fellows, nurses, hospital volunteers, physicians, postdoctoral students, lecturers, and medical students who, every Thursday night, trade their stethoscopes and white coats for sheet music and an array of string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments.

In fall 2007, Lynn Tanoue, MD ’82, professor of pulmonary medicine, broached the idea of an orchestra to Thomas P. Duffy, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, and then director of the Yale Program for Humanities in Medicine. When Tanoue issued an open invitation to a sight-reading performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, nearly 200 musicians and vocalists showed up. As Tanoue watched from the balcony in Harkness Auditorium, she recalls thinking, “We could pull this off–look at all of the talent on the stage!” Duffy secured funding and the orchestra was born.

Since its first sight reading in the fall of 2007 the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra has offered annual spring and winter concerts.

Since its inaugural performance in June 2008, the orchestra has given annual winter and spring concerts, with musical selections ranging from the Baroque to the modern music of Amy Beach, an early 20th century American composer.

Tanoue’s celebration of art extends beyond the orchestra’s music. On YMSO event posters she has featured medical art—scientific images provided by our researchers. For the inaugural concert poster, Tanoue obtained an image of stained cerebellum cells that resemble a watercolor of spring flowers. The medical “artists,” whose work has included stained polycystic kidney and liver cells, are recognized in the event’s program, with an explanation of the images’ origins.

It’s particularly heartening that the orchestra allows members of our community to see each other fulfilling roles outside of the hospital, classroom, or lab. These interactions enrich the life of the School of Medicine and reflect our collaborative spirit. If you ask the musicians what they like best about the orchestra, Tanoue says, they will likely say the weekly rehearsal. “The most meaningful part is working together to learn how to perform the piece,” she says. “The actual performance is icing on the cake.”

If you are in New Haven next week, I take this opportunity to invite you to the orchestra’s winter concert on December 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Harkness Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. The program will include Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73; Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, Op. 26; and Mikhail Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila Overture. Robert T. Smith III, music director, and Ken I. Yanagisawa, assistant music director, will conduct.