IUSM Orchestra marks fourth year with fall concert and upcoming holiday performance

December 4, 2014

The IU School of Medicine Orchestra, featuring about 50 musically talented students, faculty and staff at the School of Medicine, recently performed its annual fall concert at the Indiana History Center.

The IUSM Orchestra is celebrating four years bringing music to the IUSM and Indianapolis communities. 

The orchestra, which is celebrating its fourth year bringing classical music to the IUSM and Indianapolis community, entertained concert-goers Nov. 23 with classical works including “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, "The Merry Wives of Windsor" by Otto Nicolai and "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky.

A smaller number of performers from the orchestra will also join several musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, for a holiday performance in the atrium of the Simon Family Tower at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Musicians in the IUSM Orchestra include first- to fourth-year medical students; faculty and staff members from various medical disciplines; and those studying health science-related fields in other schools, such as dentistry and nursing.

"The orchestra started as a small group that played a couple concerts and worked to recruit staff and students; anyone loosely affiliated with health care can join," said Derryl Miller, a fourth-year medical student and flute player who serves as a student organizer for the orchestra.

Miller has been performing in the IUSM Orchestra since its earliest days. Although most members of the orchestra are seasoned musicians -- Miller has been playing the flute since fifth grade -- he said the group accepts members with varying levels of experience.

"We've also got members who played in marching band or an orchestra in college," he said. "Our members work in research; we've also got nurses, Ph.D.s, an endocrinologist, plus we have several staff and medical faculty."

David P. Schurger, who serves as music director and conductor of the IUSM Orchestra.

David P. Schurger, music director and conductor of the IUSM Orchestra, said orchestra members are uniquely talented in both music and medicine.

"Several members of the orchestra even have bachelor's degrees in music performance from IU and other reputable music schools," he said. "A handful of members have even played professionally at some point in their musical careers."

But, for most members, Miller said playing in the orchestra is simply a beloved hobby.

Alex Tuttle, a second-year medical student and bassoonist, is a member of this camp. The orchestra has given him something rewarding to work on beyond his course load, he said.

"It's a good way of staying involved with music in a low-stress setting that lets me enjoy playing," he added. "It's been great to be part of a group that can turn music on paper into a musical experience for other people. I enjoy it because I can be part of something and it gives my brain a break.

"We also have a great director who is wacky and crazy," he joked. "He would like us to be a professional group, but it’s hard with our schedules."

Schurger, who has been leading the orchestra since its inception, said the orchestra has grown over the years primarily through word-of-mouth.

"We do a lot of our own recruiting," he said. "Whenever I encounter someone associated with the health sciences at IU, I encourage them to join. We've grown from about 15 members to more than 50 in four years. Recently, we outgrew our stage in the lower level of the IUPUI Campus Center; now we’re 'Indiana History Center-sized.' Maybe soon we’ll outgrow it, too."

Soprano Maria Solis performs a solo at the 2013 IUSM Orchestra Holiday Concert. The group will perform their second annual show at Riley Hospital on Dec. 9.

Most of the orchestra members are strings players, with about 15 members in the winds section and five in the percussion section. The Nov. 23 concert also featured several soloists, including soprano Maria Solis, a fourth-year medical student; pianist Woody Han, a third-year medical student, and cellist Sarah Bishop, an IUSM alum.

Most of the students and staff in the orchestra are from the IUSM Indianapolis campus, but members are welcome from across the school's eight regional campuses. The group gets together for eight to 11 practices per semester, usually once every other Sunday. Many members also get together in smaller groups on their own to prepare for the practices. The orchestra also holds at least one concert near the end of each semester.

Following the holiday concert, Schurger is looking forward to the spring, which will feature special guest Phil Palermo, associate concert master of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, who will play the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 2.

The Spring 2015 IUSM Orchestra Concert will be 2 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at the Indiana History Center.

“We're always looking to grow the orchestra, including the string section, and to welcome more members from other health science schools and fields," Schurger said. "We also welcome working professionals in the Indianapolis area that are interested in performing great music as part of their lives."

For more information about joining the orchestra, contact dschurger@hotmail.com.