Whether looking to ancient philosophers, such as Confucius — “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” — or contemporary artists like Elton John — “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours” — the overarching message rings true: Music is good for the soul.

Recognizing that music’s calming effect can help counter the stress that sometimes accompanies medical training and practice, in fall 2018, fourth-year medical student Joohee Son started recruiting orchestral instrument-playing students, alumni, faculty and staff of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Receiving ample interest, she founded the SMPH Orchestra.

UW School of Medicine and Public Health Orchestra

The musicians rehearsed throughout the fall semester and performed their inaugural concert in December 2018 at UW-Madison’s Mills Concert Hall. Conducted by Michael Dolan and Jenny Yim from the UW School of Music, the performance featured classical pieces by Dvorak, Sibelius and Schubert.

Noting that the 40-member orchestra held its second concert in spring 2019, Son says, “It has been an amazing experience working with the talented musicians at the SMPH. We hope to continue to create wonderful music and share it with the community, including families and patients in the hospital. I hope that we also can continue to foster a supportive musical community and space for musicians to get to know each other.”

The orchestra’s founding faculty sponsor, Elizabeth Petty, MD ’86 (PG ’89), senior associate dean for academic affairs, notes, “I’m thrilled that the orchestra has been established, and I am grateful for Joohee Son’s passionate leadership and the school’s support. Music builds collaborative skills, promotes wellness, stimulates creativity and provokes thought. It stirs our souls. As such, the orchestra is a perfect addition to our community.”

A musician plays a timpani drum