Local Medical Musicians Operate With A Different Kind Of Instrument: WEMU-FM features the LSO

Whit Froehlich (and his cello), and horn player Kara Gavin, in the studio at WEMU.

Public radio station WEMU-FM, heard on 89.1 FM in the Ypsilant/Ann Arbor Area and online anywhere at www.wemu.org, aired a story about the LSO on Jan. 19.

Cellist and medical student Whit Froelich, and horn player/LSO committee member Kara Gavin, went to the station’s studios to tape the interview, which was woven together with sounds from an LSO rehearsal.

Listen online here

Fire, passion and heroics: U-M Life Sciences Orchestra plays free concert on Jan. 21

Guest conductor Todd Craven leads program of works by Russian composers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. —  The weather outside Hill Auditorium may be frigid, but the music inside will be fiery, passionate and heroic on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 21.

That’s when the University of Michigan Life Sciences Orchestra will take the stage for a free 8 p.m. performance of works by Russian composers. The LSO is made up of medical, health and science faculty, staff, students and alumni from across U-M.

The concert, led by guest conductor Todd Craven, is open to the public, as is a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. in the lower level of the Hill Auditorium building. No tickets are required, though the LSO accepts donations to support its concerts.

The concert will begin with Mikhail Glinka’s overture to a 19th century opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila, about the dramatic rescue of a princess by her true love. Assistant conductor Niklas Tamm will led the LSO for the fast and furious piece.

Next up, the Firebird suite by Igor Stravinsky, in its 1919 orchestration, will capture the excitement of a Russian folk tale turned ballet. Alternately frenzied and poetic, the piece evokes the appearance of an enchanted red bird who helps a hero defeat a sorcerer and free trapped creatures.

The program will conclude with Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s stirring, emotional Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74. Popularly known as the Pathétique, a French translation of the Russian word for “passionate” or “emotional”, the symphony was the composer’s last – premiering just over a week before his death.

The LSO’s music director is Roberto Kalb, a doctoral student in the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s nationally known orchestral conducting program. Craven is a graduate, and Tamm a current master’s student, in the program, from which the LSO has drawn its conductors since it began blending science and music in the fall of 2000.

Kalb holds the Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D. Music Director position with the LSO, made possible by a gift from its namesake, the first U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and a longtime supporter of the LSO.

The orchestra is part of the Gifts of Art program, which brings the world of art and music to the U-M Health System. The LSO gives members an outlet for their musical talents and a chance to interact with one another across academic disciplines and professions. Founded by students and staff from the U-M Health System, the orchestra made its concert debut in January 2001.

For more information on the concert or the LSO, visit http://lso.med.umich.edu/  or www.facebook.com/umlso, send e-mail to orchestra@umich.edu, or call (734) 936-ARTS. The LSO will also perform on Thursday, April 20 at Hill.

Halloween Costume Contest fun!

halloween-2016-brass_nOn Sunday, Oct. 23, many orchestra members – and guest conductor Todd Craven – came to rehearsal in colorful Halloween costumes, upholding a longtime LSO tradition.

When the dust had settled on the voting, the brass section won by a single vote in the Group category, for its Heavy Metal costume, and Dr. Jenna Devare’s Minnie Mouse won the individual category by a landslide.

halloween-2016-violasThe viola section, which has traded off the group title with the French horns for several years, made a great showing. Each member of the section dressed as a different composer, whose last name began with one of the letters in “VIOLA”. Cheryl Williams’ typewriter costume (inspired by LeRoy Anderson’s famous piece) garnered two votes of its own.

The oboes and flutes — as Stravinsky and his Firebird, and the Powerpuff Girls, respectively – also won favor. And Todd’s Florida Man, a nod to his role with the New Score Chamber Orchestra in Orlando, was a popular individual choice – but was beaten by Fran Wakefield’s Wonder Woman costume.

See all the great getups in this Facebook post. 


Introducing the 2016-2017 LSO, and a conducting update

We’re pleased to announce the 2016-2017 LSO roster, made up once again of faculty, staff, students, volunteers and alumni from a broad spectrum of the U-M life science community. We’re pleased to welcome many new faces, and to welcome back many longtime players.

Read their names here.

This year’s auditions were competitive on nearly all instruments, and we look forward to beginning our rehearsals toward our Saturday night concert at Hill Auditorium on January 21.

This semester, the LSO will be conducted by recent U-M graduate Todd Craven, who earned his master’s in conducting here and is also Principal Conductor of the New Score Chamber Orchestra in
Orlando, Florida and conducting fellow for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania. His full biography is here.

Assisting Todd will be Niklas Tamm, a current master’s student in conducting at U-M.

Together, they will fill in for LSO Music Director Roberto Kalb, who will focus on family matters this semester and return to the LSO podium for our April concert.

Roberto has selected three Russian works for the January concert: Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla overture, the 1919 Firebird suite by Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. 

Welcome to the new LSO season!

Snapchat fun at LSO Auditions

As part of a regular series of “Snapchat takeovers” where students take the reins of the main U-M Snapchat for a short time, LSO violinist Joy Loh captured a series of short videos and photos during her LSO audition.

View the result here!

Sign up for your audition today!

audition wonkaAuditions are coming up on September 13, 15 and 18!

Sign up for yours online today at http://mysignup.com/lso16

Please read the information at the top of the audition signup page, and the information on this page of our site, before choosing your time. Please also review the FAQ.

Everyone who wishes to be considered for the LSO must audition, even those who have played with the LSO before. If you absolutely cannot make it to any of the audition dates, or have other questions, email orchestra@umich.edu.

If you have not filled out the LSO Prospective Musician Form, please do so before requesting an audition time.

We look forward to seeing you at auditions!

Announcing: Key dates for our new season

We’re getting ready to launch our 17th season of blending science and music!

Here are key dates for all prospective members. As a reminder, EVERYONE who wishes to play with the LSO must audition each year. And if you have not played with the LSO before, please also fill out the Prospective Member Form so we can add you to our email list and send you updates!


Tues 9/13 – 6:30-10:30pm

Thur 9/15 – 7:00-10:00pm

Both nights: Rooms 2020 and 2026, School of Music, Theatre & Dance (Earl V. Moore Building)

Sun 9/18 – 11:00am-5:00pm

Rooms 2038 and 2044

An online audition signup sheet is available online at http://mysignup.com/lso16

All musicians accepted into the LSO for this season will be notified by email by Sept. 22.
Kickoff Picnic – Sunday, Sept. 25 – late afternoon, location TBD


7-9:30 p.m., Kevreson Hall, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
*Skipping Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter/Passover weekends as well as winter holidays*
Oct. 2

Oct 9

Oct 16

Oct 23

Nov. 6

Nov. 13

Nov. 20

Dec. 4

Dec. 11

Dec. 18

Jan. 8

Jan 15

DRESS REHEARSAL: Friday evening, Jan. 20, Hill Aud.  – Time TBD

CONCERT: Saturday, Jan. 21, Hill Auditorium. – 8 pm

Jan. 29

Feb. 5 (Super Bowl)

Feb 12

Feb. 19

Feb. 26

Mar 5

Mar 12

Mar 19

Mar 26

Apr 2

Apr 9

DRESS REHEARSAL: Wed., April 19 – evening, time TBD

CONCERT: Thurs. April 20, 7:30 p.m., Hill Auditorium *UNLESS OTHER DATES BECOME AVAILABLE*


Questions? send a message to orchestra@umich.edu

Medicine at Michigan magazine features LSO

Kara GavinRead the full story on the original site here


The Music of Science

The Life Sciences Orchestra at the U-M combines music and medicine.


Carl Engelke could have been a professional musician.

Instead, he’s helping develop new therapeutic strategies to treat cancer as he works toward an M.D. and a Ph.D. His trumpet may have taken a back seat to science, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to him play.

Ellen Janke, (M.D. 1989, Residency 1993) once had a violin teacher warn her about the hard life of a musician — so she chose a path to medicine instead. Now, the same hands that she uses to adjust anesthesia gases for U-M surgical patients also help her navigate the lightning-quick notes of major symphonies.

And Bernhard Muller (M.D. 1964), who started on violin in fourth grade, remembers medical school study sessions accompanied by the sounds of a professor’s string quartet. He kept up his own playing throughout his medical training and decades as a pulmonologist, and now livens up retirement using his late uncle’s viola.

Coming Together

Every Sunday night, Engelke, Janke and Muller join with 62 others from across the spectrum of U-M’s life science community to form one of the nation’s unique symphonic ensembles.

Called the Life Sciences Orchestra, or LSO, it welcomes faculty, staff, students and alumni from across the Medical School and broader Health System, and many of U-M’s other health and life sciences schools, colleges and departments.

For a few hours, they can forget the demands of classes and caseloads, laboratory experiments and work deadlines, patients and prototypes. They can set aside the fact that they’re nurses and dental students, biomedical engineers and health economists, medical students and lab technicians, physicians and environmental scientists.

Their rank in the academic universe — from undergraduate to professor emeritus — vanishes.

Every year or two, the LSO welcomes a new conductor, as doctoral students get placed in the post by Kenneth Kiesler, who heads the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s world-renowned orchestral conducting studio.

Past LSO conductors now lead ensembles around the nation, from Seattle to Nevada, and cite the orchestra as one of their formative conducting experiences.

This season, Roberto Kalb holds the LSO baton, as the Gilbert S. Omenn Music Director. He splits his time between Ann Arbor and St. Louis, where he conducts members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as part of his job as assistant conductor to Opera Theater of Saint Louis. A native of Mexico, he’s an award-winning composer as well as conductor.

Twice a year, the LSO shares its music with the community through free concerts at Hill Auditorium.

The next performance, on Sunday, April 24 at 4 p.m., features an ambitious program: the entire first act of Puccini’s opera “La Bohème,” complete with national-level vocalists, a concerto for organ by Poulenc, and Gershwin’s famous “An American in Paris.”

Let’s Put on a Show

The LSO got its start in 2000 as the idea of a first-year U-M otolaryngology resident who had played in a medical orchestra while at Harvard Medical School. He approached the director of the Health System’s Gifts of Art program, Elaine Sims, about starting such a group in Ann Arbor.

Though most of her programs to date had focused on bringing art and music directly into U-M’s health care environment, Sims knew a good idea when she heard one.

“There is a well-documented connection between music and those who pursue careers in medicine,” she says. “In the first week we put up flyers on the medical campus advertising for an orchestra, 120 people responded. It fell into place quite quickly and easily, and we presented our first concert in early 2001.”

Years later, still the LSO’s “stage mother,” Sims watches the performances with pride. It all pays off: the rehearsing by the members; the preparation by the conductors; the work by Gifts of Art staff to handle the business of running an orchestra; the shoe-leather fundraising and publicity.

“The end product is an amateur orchestra which twice a year mounts the stage with the ease and grace of professionals, and dazzles its sizeable audience with the gift of music,” she says. “At the same time, the LSO helps our members build community, reduce stress, foster creativity and nourish the essence that gives meaning to our lives.”

And that young otolaryngologist who sparked the idea? He’s associate vice president and associate dean for Health Equity and Inclusion David Brown, M.D. Though he’s taking a break from the LSO to focus on his new role, he still practices his flute regularly.

The Harvard-area orchestra that sparked the idea for the LSO only included members of the medical community. But U-M’s innovation — including people from many fields and professions, linked by life science — has now spawned its own imitators. From North Carolina to New Mexico to Texas, LSO-like ensembles have sprung up over the past decade.

Mastering Music Together

For longtime LSO members like Michael DiPietro, M.D., a pediatric radiology faculty member and ultrasound specialist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the orchestra offers a unique opportunity.

“For most LSO members, music is an avocation. We do it because we love it. Had music and fine arts not been available to us in our early education along with all the science, there would now be a hole in our lives,” says the bassoon player.

The fact that the LSO gets to perform in one of America’s finest concert halls, on the same stage where countless professionals have played, adds to the experience. So does sharing that music with an appreciative audience.

Says DiPietro, “Many work colleagues attend our concerts with their families. Some have told me that they had never before attended a symphony concert and quickly became devoted fans of classical music because of the LSO.”

Janke, who serves with DiPietro on the orchestra’s volunteer executive committee, also appreciates how the LSO brings colleagues together as musicians and audience members.

“I never cease to be amazed by the musical talent that exists within the Health System, and in the broader reaches of the life sciences,” she says. “I cannot imagine not playing the violin, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to keep playing nonprofessionally. It is crucial for me to maintain interests outside of work.”

Muller, the orchestra’s oldest member and resident photographer, says he particularly values the contact with people of all ages. “It is easy for an old geezer like me to become stuck in elder activities; contact with such a diverse age group helps keep me active and optimistic.”

On the other end of the LSO’s age range, but just a few seats away in the violin section, Jenna Devare, M.D., agrees. “The LSO provides me with a wonderful opportunity to continue making beautiful music and to collaborate with U-M physicians, scientists and trainees in a new context, helping to balance my life as an otolaryngology resident,” she says. “I am lucky to be a part of such a multitalented group.”

For more information about the April 24 concert, please visit the Life Science Orchestra’s website.