My musical journey began unexpectedly in the late 1950s. I was in third grade and discovered a dusty guitar in the attic of a farmhouse in Vermont where I was visiting a friend. I’m pretty sure it was an old archtop. Some of the strings were missing, and the neck was bowed, but it was a thing of beauty, and I decided then and there that I would learn to play. My timing was good, because the “folk music” scene was gearing up, and a few years later I was following my guitar teacher to gigs at various coffeehouses around Boston. I remember sipping on ginger ale and waiting for my chance to climb up on stage to play a few songs with him (Freight Train, Living in the Country…anyone remember those?).

In 1960 my parents bought me a Martin D-18 which was a great guitar, but probably not the best choice for a nine year-old. I eventually grew into it, but I played with a capo on the third fret for the first year. It is now a vintage guitar, and I still have it. The story of “My D-18” is now a song on my second CD “Saints and Poets.

In the 1960s, folk music gave way to the Beatles and we all plugged in and grew our hair long. Through high school and college I played in rock bands – mostly rhythm guitar, including a clunky Fender Electric XII. But I also continued to play my acoustic guitar and started to dabble in songwriting. During high school in Princeton, New Jersey, I became interested in science, especially biology, and I decided to go to medical school. I also decided that I wanted to be a surgeon. I could say that performing surgery is like playing the guitar, but it really isn’t. I guess they are just two things you can do with your hands. I went to Rutgers University for two years and then transferred to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to finish college and continue through medical school, graduating in 1976.

A sense of practicality and responsibility (and the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day) led me to give up music for most of medical school, surgical residency, and my early career in academic surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. Then, in the early 1990s, my father called from Princeton to say that he was cleaning out the attic and wondering what to do with my old guitars (which were now 25 to 30 years old). I retrieved them and suddenly became a vintage guitar collector. I started to play again and found that, with a little practice, most of the old chops came back.

I got started by attending various workshops and music camps. As my guitar playing improved, I shifted my focus to songwriting. Over the years I have been fortunate to work with songwriting teachers and workshop leaders such as Steve Seskin, John Braheny, Tim Stafford, Rick Carnes, Pat Pattison, Jon Vezner, Bonnie Hayes, and Kathy Mattea. In July of 2003 I had my first opportunity to play at the Bluebird Café in Nashville during the NashCamp songwriting workshop. It was so much fun that I returned in 2004 through 2007. I participated in the 2004-2005 University of Washington Certificate Program in Songwriting which included an opportunity to record at Glenn Sound Studios in Seattle and collaborate with a talented group of local singer/songwriters. I attend songwriting workshops around Seattle whenever I can. The songwriting class at Shoreline Community College taught by Sue Ennis has been especially helpful.

The inspiration for my songwriting comes from both the medical and personal sides of life. I am constantly amazed by patients who, in moments of pain and uncertainty, somehow find untapped streams of courage to lift them up. The doctor is generally regarded as the source of strength in the doctor-patient relationship, but I think the opposite can also be true - the practice of medicine is a two-way street. On the personal side, just being a parent, step-parent, husband (and ex-husband) is a deep well of material. Sometimes it takes a song to sort all the details out.

My current musical goals are to continue writing and performing original songs, as well as to pitch songs that have commercial potential. I released my first studio-produced CD One Good Day in 2006, and my second collection of mostly original songs Saints and Poets was released in December 2008.

I have been practicing academic surgery at the University of Washington for 25 years. It has been productive and rewarding in many ways, but I have come to realize that it is not “everything”. As my medical career winds down, I hope to continue this journey back towards my musical roots – the place where I started and have always felt very much at home.
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