On October 17th, 2014, I got one of the most important phone calls of my life -- I was accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School! After years spent imagining how -- if! -- music and medicine would come together in my life, I am finally about to take the first big step in making this future a reality. Although there are countless people who have inspired me along the way, there are two musician-doctors whose careers I can only aspire to emulate.
Denny Zeitlin is an American jazz pianist and clinical psychiatrist. While in medical school in the mid 1960s, he performed and recorded extensively, collaborating with many famous musicians, including flutist Jeremy Steig, bassist Charlie Haden, and all-time great jazz pianist Bill Evans, just to name a few. A cool tidbit -- Bill Evans frequently performed the piece "Quiet Now," which was written by Zeitlin.
Upon graduation from medical school, Denny Zeitlin became a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California and opened his own private practice. Through it all, he continued to engage in the music community and concertized all over the world, recording over 30 albums. He has said numerous times that his passions for music and medicine are equal -- he could not possibly choose one over the other.
Another influence is Krzysztof Komeda, a titan of Polish avant-garde jazz. Dabbling in the avant-garde at a time when it was hugely frowned upon (and, in fact, against the law), Komeda also studied medicine and became an otolaryngologist. He recorded highly influential albums such as Astigmatic and had a long-standing collaboration with Polish filmmaker Roman Polanksi, scoring movies such as Knife in the Water.
Despite his prominence in the world of music, he was a doctor by profession; these two passions were never in conflict. Today, Komeda's name is mentioned in reverent whispers among jazz lovers; his contributions to the medical field cannot be forgotten, either!
Here is some beautiful music by these two jazz greats...