RCO of the Week: Chamber Music Society at UCSF to hold Winter Concert

Graduate Division

A UCSF trainee has many responsibilities, so it is difficult to find time to pursue one’s passions outside of science and health care.  This is especially true for musicians, who often find it difficult to integrate music into their lives at UCSF.  Enter the Chamber Music Society at UCSF, which creates opportunities for UCSF trainees to participate in chamber musical performance and community outreach. 

Founded by Sherman Jia,  a resident physician in neurology who, as a medical student, started a similar society at Harvard, the group includes students from a number of professional and graduate schools, as well as residents, fellows, staff and friends of UCSF.  This creates ample opportunity for participants to connect with other musicians.

“I joined CMS mainly for the opportunity to meet other musicians,” said Rebecca Kim, a third-year Tetrad student. “There's a large amateur-musician community in San Francisco, and it was nice to have a group where most of the musicians had related career interests and backgrounds.”   

There are many chances for members to perform, as well.  CMS has accomplished a lot since it was started in 2013, including a spring concert, an outreach concert at SF Towers, and multiple performances at events such as the UCSF Veterans Day Celebration and Classical Revolution.  There are also sight-reading sessions to give musicians the time to reacquaint themselves with performing with others. 

“CMS is a great way for musicians to sight read music together in a relaxed atmosphere,” said Lay Kodama, a first-year MSTP student. “I especially love these monthly sessions because they give me an excuse to try out new pieces with people I would have otherwise never met.”

The group will hold its next bi-annual concert on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7p.m. in Cole Hall (see sidebar for details). The concert is free and open to the public. “There’s no reason not to go,” said Jia.

Given all that CMS has accomplished this past year, I sat down with Jia to learn more about the society and its plans.

Synapse: What types of activities do musicians in CMS take part in?

S.J. The CMS holds monthly reading sessions for musicians to meet one another and form chamber music ensembles. Groups then rehearse on their own to prepare for concerts. We hold bi-annual concerts at UCSF in the winter and in the summer, outreach concerts (so far at UCSF Family House and SF Towers), and play at UCSF- sponsored events such as the Veterans Day Celebration and the Chancellor's Concert Series. In addition, musicians from CMS bring their music to other venues such as the Classical Revolution, GroupMuse and house concerts. Some groups have also received coaching from the Alexander String Quartet, a quartet in residence at San Francisco State University.

What types of performances would you like to do next year?

We are preparing for the UCSF Chancellor's Concert Series, which is a huge honor because this is usually limited to professional musicians. We would like to do more outreach concerts, for example at Laguna Honda Hospice unit, as well as at other nursing and assisted-living facilities. We are also open to collaborative performances, for example with Vocal Cords at UCSF, as well as with a new dance group at UCSF.  Additional ideas include hosting a symposium on the intersection of music and medicine, which would include talks as well as performances.

Are there any major goals you have for CMS?  What is your vision for it?

The CMS's primary goal is to bring together musicians at UCSF, to provide trainees with reading and performance opportunities so they can keep music an integral part of their lives while they are pursuing their professional careers. Once we establish a community of musicians (which we have), we can then bring music to those who don't easily have access to live music. This is the dual healing nature of music—to make a healthy and well-balanced physician/scientist, and to heal patients or those in recovery. At the end of the day, music is fun, and if that's all that folks get out of it, I'm satisfied.

Can you elaborate on how music is healing for both the physician and the patient?

When I was in Boston, I was concertmaster of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a semiprofessional group composed primarily of medical professionals, including medical students, residents, attendings, scientists, physical therapists, engineers and the occasional professional musician. Each of our concerts involved a partnership with a local health care organization, and we helped raised awareness as well as funds for these groups. We held symposiums featuring renowned researchers who were members of the orchestra, and subsequently held performances by the same physician‒scientists. There are others that dedicate their research to the healing power of music in patients, for example using singing to help speech recovery after stroke, or using classical music to relieve pain and anxiety in critically ill patients. 

Personally, music has helped me grow as a physician and scientist. Playing the violin for years helped me develop patience, problem-solving skills, and analytical skills. Playing orchestral and chamber music helped me develop communication and teamwork skills. But again, at the end of the day, it is simply fun.

How can people get involved in CMS?

Email [email protected]. We will send info about upcoming events including monthly reading sessions, which are usually the first Sunday of every month in Cole Hall.

Want to go?

CMS Winter Concert

Friday, Dec. 5, 7p.m.

Cole Hall

The concert will feature six chamber music ensembles and will be the first time that an octet performs. The program will include selections from Dvorak Quartet No. 14, Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Schubert Trout Quintet, Beethoven Piano Trio "Ghost," Tchaikovsky Piano Trio and the Mendelssohn Octet for strings. Vocal Cords A Capella will help open the concert. The concert is free and open to the public, and will also include a post-concert reception with light refreshments. 

Visit the CMS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/UCSFChamberMusicSociety