Living Columns & Blogs

Music is good medicine

The Morning Music Club sponsored a lively concert in Pierce Chapel, on the Wesleyan campus, on the cold evening of January 11, where the talented musicians warmed the room with a program that, at the end, had the venerable hall rocking.

Titled “Medicine and More!,” the list of performers included three physicians, one professor and a bassist, and was emceed by another physician, Ron Freeman, a local plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Freeman opened the program with a brief history of music and with comments on the relationship of music and medicine and the mutual attributes required to excel in both fields of endeavor.

The first selection, played by pianist Chris Inhulsen, was Franz Schubert’sImpromptu in G Flat Major” from Opus 90, one of the romantic sonatas and impromptus written by Schubert in the last years of his brief 31 years. Inhulsen, a family physician from Montezuma, is better known in Macon for his choral voice, but also substitutes for church musicians on a regular basis. His delicate handling of Schubert’s composition, results of years of training with Edward Eikner, piano professor emeritus at Wesleyan, makes one wonder how he has time for music with a busy medical practice.

That could be a question for all of the several physicians that so enthusiastically participated in the concert. Inhulsen was followed by another piano performance from Benjamin Ho, also a family practitioner, in Macon. Ho, who comes from a family of musicians, started playing as one of his mother’s students at five years old. Later he was one of Susan McDuffie’s students, under whose tutelage he won music competitions and was afforded the opportunity to play with local orchestras.

Selections from another composer of the romantic era, Frederic Chopin, opened Ho’s performance, followed by a medley of contemporary composers that also embraced the romantic era of the early 19th century. All of that changed with “L’Orage” (The Storm) from Opus 109, No. 13, by German composer Friedrich Burgmuller. The roiling moodiness of the music increased the tension of the program, followed by the flamenco rhythm of “Malaguena,” by the late Cuban contemporary composer Ernesto Lecuona.

Ho ended his program with “Comptine dun autre ete – l’apres midi,” a puzzling title, loosely translated as Nursery Rhyme on a Summer Afternoon, by an unlikely, young French rock musician, Yann Tiersen, whose reputation has reached beyond European borders and has brought him to the attention of American rock fans.

Each physician, before performing, talked about the importance of music to an individual’s development and of the positive diversion it is to each of them in their various medical specialties. Ed Clark, founder and director of the Riverdale Jazz and Arts Festival, excellent saxophonist and jazz man and neonatal pediatrician with the Children’s Hospital – Navicent Health, introduced his jazz quartet, EKC, after telling the audience he finds music a helpful tool in treating children: “The art of pediatrics is really the art of distraction — I always keep a kazoo in my pocket.”

Ken Harper, local obstetrician and gynecologist, and drummer for the group, despite his mild demeanor, powerfully commanded the performance, especially during a couple of drum solos. He was joined by bass guitarist, the popular KMO, who is a fixture with Clark’s jazz gigs, and by regular pianist for the quartet, Neil Rigole, who also is the musical director, keyboardist and vocalist for another familiar Macon band, The Grapevine. In Rigole’s day job, he is the director of the Center for Teaching Innovation at Middle Georgia State University.

Clark’s EKC quartet always plays songs that make the audience want to sing along, the songs they’ve heard from childhood that are the true jazz classics. The Morning Music Club program was no exception — they opened with “My Romance,” a nice, swing tune by Rodgers and Hart that needed only a foxtrot to make it perfect.

KMO brought some nostalgia to the evening with his rendition of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind,” showing off some of his riffs on guitar while Clark showed off his versatile range of talent, singing Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.” Clark ended the concert with additional insight into the benefits of music for all ages and of music as the perfect complement to other careers, including medicine.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or