Local Doctor Blends Medicine And Music (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Local Doctor Blends Medicine And Music

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So let's say you have these dreams, one of them is of becoming a professional musician, but you also really, really want to be a doctor. Eventually, you're going to have to choose between the two paths, right? Well, on Chevy Chase man has found a way to pursue this pair of passions. And, as Heather Taylor tells us, even though the two fields seem very different, this man has found a way to get them to communicate with each other.

MS. HEATHER TAYLOR

00:00:28
Dr. Phillip Pearl is dressed in a white hospital coat, standing in a compact room, jammed with chairs and a few meeting room tables. He's instructing a class of George Washington University medical students.

MS. HEATHER TAYLOR

00:00:48
Earlier in the day, he could be found making hospital rounds, consulting with patients and their families.

MS. HEATHER TAYLOR

00:01:01
For someone in the medical profession, Pearl's routine is hardly unusual, except for one thing. Listen to his title.

DR. PHILLIP PEARL

00:01:08
I'm professor of neurology, pediatrics and music at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Colombia College of Health and Sciences.

TAYLOR

00:01:18
Pearl spent years immersed in both medicine and music, figuring out a way to combine them, to incorporate them successfully into his life. And since 2003, he's developed a lecture that combines the two fields seamlessly.

PEARL

00:01:35
I have a presentation I do called the Neurology of Famous Musicians.

TAYLOR

00:01:38
In it, Pearl talks with physicians, medical students and other members of the medical community about composers and musicians who suffer from neurological problems.

PEARL

00:01:48
For example, I'll talk about Robert Schumann, who had all sorts of problems and also lived with bipolar effective disorder. And during my talk I talk about how the medical problems affected the musicality of the composer. And then I'll play Schumann.

TAYLOR

00:02:06
And then…

PEARL

00:02:07
I'll talk about George Gershwin, who died tragically young. And then I'll play some Gershwin.

TAYLOR

00:02:14
Over the years, he's given this presentation at meetings of the American Academy of Neurology, here in the states and in Italy and Israel. But that's only part of Pearl's approach to combining a life of medicine and music. He's also working with the piano builder and engineer Warren Shadd on a manuscript about adapting musical instruments for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. So how did this dual path of medicine and music begin?

PEARL

00:02:43
I grew up in a musical family. My dad was a professional jazz trumpeter. And by the time I was in sixth grade I had outgrown my local drum teacher and started working on the xylophone and took some entry exams and an audition and was accepted to Peabody.

TAYLOR

00:02:59
That's the elite music conservatory in Baltimore. Pearl considered going into music full time, but his father recognized the challenges of a musician's life and urged him to go in a different direction. Pearl headed to medical school. These days, Pearl plays professional jazz piano, vibes and drums, with a steady stream of performances at local venues. Pearl thinks that one key to creating a full life of music and medicine is to surround yourself with good people and teams.

PEARL

00:03:29
Medicine, for example and particularly medical research, is no longer done by individuals that much. It's done by teams. And I just try to take advantage of the associations one can make with other good people. There are so many good people in all of these areas, in medicine and research, in music, at the university, at the medical school, at the hospital.

TAYLOR

00:03:48
But what if he had to choose between music and medicine?

PEARL

00:03:51
I absolutely love the practice of medicine. It gives me a lot of significance to my life that I don't think would be there without it. And yet, I've always needed the music. And if I don't play for awhile I'm pretty unhappy.

TAYLOR

00:04:04
So when it comes to translating his passion for music and medicine into two career paths, this 21st century renaissance man realizes that it's not an either/or proposition. Phillip Pearl knows it means incorporating them both. I'm Heather Taylor.

SHEIR

00:04:49
After the break, going back to the golden age of newspapers and finding out what happens when communication gets hot, very hot.

MS. AMANDA BRICE

00:04:58
I don't particularly like a lot of the stereotypes we hear of the heaving bosoms and all the stuff that you…

MS. REBECCA YORK

00:05:09
Bodice rippers.

BRICE

00:05:10
Bodice rippers, yes.

SHEIR

00:05:11
We'll get a little steamy with our monthly literary segment, Bookend. It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5
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