Docs who rock
PHOTOS BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE
A band comprised of six Upstate doctors won “best audience participation” during the “Rockin’ the Redhouse” benefit concert earlier this year. The event raised money for scholarships to the Redhouse, a downtown performing arts venue, and provides an opportunity for garage bands to perform onstage at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse.
The Bronze Puppies got their name from a group text. A message referring to their vocalist’s “golden pipes” was somehow auto-corrected to “bronze puppies.” Here’s a look at how each member makes music a part of his or her leisure time:
Jean Ball, DC
Career: assistant professor, cell and developmental biology
Began music lessons: ”I have been singing since high school with some lessons along the way.”
How do you practice? Just with the band.
Why music is part of her life: “Music communicates a message and tells a story in a way that plain words cannot do.”
Lawrence Chin, MD
Career: neurosurgeon, dean of the College of Medicine.
Began music lessons: Piano at the age of 8. “I still play piano, but infrequently, and know how to play the guitar but don’t due to lack of talent. I am mostly a drummer these days.”
Graduated medical school: 1987.
What he does just before taking the stage: Takes deep breaths and visualizes the crowd cheering.
All-time favorite song: Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” or “Peg.”
Why music is part of his life: “It’s relaxing and enjoyable, but also challenging and creative.”
Best concert he attended: Steely Dan any year or location, but most recently at the Landmark Theatre in 2019 in Syracuse.
James Greenwald, MD
Career: doctor of family medicine.
Began music lessons: “I joined the choir in my local church when I could still sing soprano. I started trombone lessons with my school music teacher, Lawrence Bunny, in fifth grade. I taught myself how to play bass.”
Graduated medical school: 1978.
What he does just before taking the stage: Gets scared and sits by himself.
All-time favorite song: The Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill version of “Au Fond du Temple Saint,” known as “The Pearl Fishers’ Duet,” from Georges Bizet’s 1863 opera, “Les Pêcheurs de Perles.”
Why music is part of his life: “I’m pretty sure it is hard-wired into my brain.”
The performer he channels: Phil Lesh, formerly of the Grateful Dead.
Gary Johnson, MD
Career: emergency physician.
Began music lessons: “I’ve actually never had a guitar lesson.”
Graduated medical school: 1986.
Why music is part of his life: “Music is a hobby, and once you get comfortable with screwing up
onstage, it’s a lot of fun and good fellowship.”
Favorite concerts from the 1970s: UFO at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre, Pink Floyd at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and Blue Öyster Cult at Capital Centre in suburban Washington, D.C.
Favorite concerts from the 1980s: The Kinks at Capital Centre, and John Hiatt at the former First Baptist Church facing Columbus Circle in Syracuse, also known as the Mizpah Tower.
Rachel Hopkins, MD
Began music lessons: “I took some voice lessons in high school, approximately 100 years ago. I also took piano lessons for a couple of years as an adult when my kids started lessons.”
Graduated medical school: 1999.
What she does just before taking the stage: Try to stay calm and not succumb to the terror.
How she practices: Sings in the shower and her car all the time.
Why music is part of her life: “Music is a fun, fulfilling way to connect with other people. There’s also just something deeply and uniquely human about music.”
Paul Klawitter, MD, PhD
Career: emergency physician.
Began music lessons: Clarinet lessons in third grade.
Graduated medical school: 1993.
Earned his doctorate: 2002.
What he does just before taking the stage: Runs through the set list in his head; tries to trick himself into not being anxious.
All-time favorite song: “This is an unanswerable question. I suggest following the Rolling Stones’ advice: Make every song you sing your favorite tune.”
Best concert he attended: Johnny and the Triumphs in the mid- to late 1980s at a Potsdam bar called Django’s.
The performer he channels: British songwriter/guitarist Mark Knopfler, who co-founded the band Dire Straits.