It’s Saturday night: Do you know where your doctor is? If recent trends are any indication, there’s a good chance you’ll find your physician on a stage near you, jamming on a keyboard or playing a mind-bending solo guitar riff at The Bayou Blues Cafe, Timber Creek Tavern, or Martin’s West.
Rocking doctors is more than a fad, it’s a vertiable epidemic. Lew Schon, chief of Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgery at Union Memorial Hospital, for instance, has been rocking out on keyboard with his band The Stimulators for 10 years (as well as Union comrades: Colorectal surgeon Jarrott Moore, Curtis National hand surgeon Ken Means, and Johns Hopkins biostatistician Reg Dunn). On the other side of town, internist Alan Reisinger (who once did backup at Pier Six for the Village People) plays the mandolin and guitar with his acoustic-rock band, Still Crazy (along with internal medicine doctor Lynn Alonso and health-care attorney Jeffrey Pecore).
Meanwhile, world-renowned Johns Hopkins University cancer researcher Bert Vogelstein until recently would regularly let loose on keyboard with his band Wild Type (comprised of researchers from his lab). And, of course, let’s not forget to give a shout out to cardiologist-vocalist Stephen Valenti of Stevie V. and the Heart Attackers (Valenti not only put himself through college and medical school, but he opened for Three Dog Night, Jimmy Buffett, Buddy Rich, and The Drifters in his college days) or urologist David Gordon of Baltimore-based Chesapeake Urology, who cut a CD with his former group Gypsy Lane (and got this close to getting hired by Star Trek producer Rick Berman to help write the musical score to a Star Trek: The Next Generation feature film) while he was an attending physician at University of Pennsylvania.
Why so many rockin’ docs? “People who are predisposed to go into medicine also have the same skill set that makes them good listeners and good executers of technique,” says Lew Schon. “It’s the same parts of brain that allow them to practice medicine that also allow them to appreciate, analyze, and perform music.”
Unlike a career in medicine, “Playing is fun, and it’s a great diversion from medicine,” says sports medicine doctor Frank Catanzariti of Towson Orthopaedic Associates, whose band the Upsetters disbanded in 2005 after six years.
“Half my fans are my patients,” says Alan Reisinger. “But I suspect the reason we pack them in is that nobody ever comes to my office and asks me a question about music, but during one of my concerts they like to ask me medical questions.” One of Reisinger’s favorite fan moments? “Years ago at a gig in a tiny bar on Route 40, two young ladies asked me for my guitar pick, and my drummer broke his stick in half and women were fighting for it. Here’s a bunch of middle-aged guys living their dream in front of people playing rock and roll.”