In ancient Rome and Athens, many of the physicians were not only physicians, they were also musicians! They knew the healing powers of music, sound, rhythm, and harmony and they often were quite skilled musicians themselves. Yes, physicians and musicians seem to have a lot in common! You’ve all heard of the Greek God, Apollo? He was the God of both music and medicine and was recognized for that for centuries. In ancient times, music was often prescribed and administered by the physician whether it was playing a lyre, a flute, a panpipe, or perhaps singing to the patient in a specific mode.
Today, we are coming full circle and physicians are again recognizing the power of music as medicine and as a therapy. The orchestra above is the famous Longwood Symphony, located in Boston, MA. It is comprised entirely of physicians and other medical personnel. Each concert focuses on a specific disease or disability, such as leukemia, diabetes, breast cancert and so forth. The fields of nursing, music therapy, music medicine, as well as many specialties in medicine, have now conducted and published dozens of scientific studies, documenting the many and varied benefits of music in the field of medicine.
In addition, physicians are either already skilled in playing instruments, or are learning to play instruments for their own relaxation or self-nurturing. There are orchestras springing up around the country that are comprised entirely of physicians. I’m most familiar with one in Boston is the Longwood Symphony. This wonderful ensemble performs several times a year and there is always a charitable cause that benefits from their concerts! What a great idea!
Another interesting story comes from New York:
“When New York City physician, teacher, writer and editor Danielle Ofri took up the cello in 2006, it was to encourage her daughter to practice the violin: The girl’s teacher had told her that seeing a parent practice was the best way to make a child want to do the same.
Ofri, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, thought that practising would be a chore, she observed in a 2009 article in The Lancet — a responsibility, in the way that looking after patients, teaching, writing and editing are chores for her. (Her word.) But it turned out to be something she truly wanted to do.
She looked forward, “almost to the exclusion of all else,” each evening to practising the Bach suite she was working on — no matter how tired she was.
The fatigue dissipates for Montreal family physician Johanne Thibaudeau, too, when she picks up her violin: playing is a form of meditation for her. “When I start to practise, I can be very tired — and, after half an hour, I’m not tired anymore,” she said. “I can go for an hour and a half.
And with music in my life, I have the feeling of being a better person — perhaps because I have done something to nourish a part of myself. I am very relaxed. — Johanne Thibaudeau
Thibaudeau has observed that many doctors are serious amateur musicians and she wonders: Is it that music speaks to them? Or are they simply highly motivated people who have an easy time learning new material?”
I’ve known for years that physicians are often talented musicians, and they are definitely wonderful supporters of the arts both by their presence and their financial support. Let’s hope that this partnership and connection lasts as long as civilization lasts!