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Performing artists and medical students find meeting of minds

In the past, if you heard a mention of "culture" at DMS, the conversation was probably about some organism in a petri dish. But the term has taken on new meaning of late. On January 28, 15 medical students and DMS staff members shared lunch and conversation with three members of the California EAR Unit, a group dedicated to the development and performance of new music. It was the third event in a new series called the DMS Arts and Medicine Program.

Boom: While the students munched quietly and listened intently, clarinetist Marty Walker, cellist Erika Duke Kirkpatrick, and pianist Vicki Ray played samples of their work on a boom box. Between bites, the students asked and the musicians answered questions about new music and EAR, which was in the area to perform at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts.

"What made you get involved in this type of music?" a student inquired. EAR's music has been described as "kaleidoscopic" and "eclectic."

These California-based musicians recently came to Dartmouth for a concert —and conversation with medical students, as part of a new DMS program.

"We became disappointed," replied Walker, "that so few professional classical and romantic performers actually perform pieces by living composers."

"We became a kind of living laboratory," added Ray.

Take away: Asked another student, "What do you hope your audiences take away with them when they leave the concert?"

"We hope they feel illuminated," explained Kirkpatrick. "And we like to bring them together with us in a kind of musical dialogue."

The time passed quickly, with more questions and provocative answers. The musicians even had a question for the students: "Why do we see so many doctors in community orchestras and other performances?" Ray wondered. Several theories were proposed, though no definitive conclusion was drawn—but the question seemed to spark a bond between askers and answerers. All too soon, the students reluctantly began filtering out the door to their next class.

The Arts and Medicine Program, conceived by DMS Dean Stephen Spielberg, M.D., Ph.D., is designed to introduce (or reintroduce) culture to busy medical students. "We needed to broaden our medical students' experiences beyond medicine," explains Sue Ann Hennessy, assistant dean for student affairs. "We have a lot of wonderful cultural activities that are offered at the College. The unfortunate thing is our students' schedules are so busy, and their lives are so demanding, . . . that it's awfully dif- ficult for them to find the time to go and take advantage of these cultural events.

"So," she says, "we came up with the idea that perhaps if our students couldn't go there, we could bring the artists to DMS."

The first event, in September, was a discussion with "word performer" Sekou Sundiata of a poem he'd written about his experience with kidney failure and transplantation. In November, students enjoyed a mini-performance and dessert with the Adaskin String Trio.

Second-year student Stephanie Ajudua has attended two of the three events. "I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about topics often neglected when studying medicine," she says. "It's so nice to take a break and hear about what is going on with the arts."

New lens: Students aren't the only ones who are benefiting from the program. Says Joseph Clifford, the outreach manager for the Hopkins Center, "I see it as a really great way to develop new audiences, and for artists to think outside the box, too.

"I think it gives me a new lens to look through in developing residencies," continues Clifford. "There's a whole new audience out there that I wasn't thinking about last year."

The next event in the series, with a dance troupe, was scheduled for the end of March.

Joyce F. Wagner

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