With the assistance of playbill.com founder Viagas (I'm the Greatest Star: Broadway's Top Musical Legends from 1900 to Today, 2009, etc.), Wong sums up her experiences as president of Boston's Longwood Symphony Orchestra.
The author joined this relatively unique orchestra of semi-professional musicians who are also medical practitioners in 1985, at a time when it was made up of “an enthusiastic but rather motley band of eighty or ninety musicians.” In college Wong had dreamed of becoming a professional violinist but decided on a medical career instead. Despite the demands of a thriving pediatric practice, marriage and motherhood, she joined the LSO and served as president from 1991 to 2012. She provides thumbnail sketches of other members of the orchestra to substantiate her assertion that music and medicine can be complementary, and she explains that the ability to listen is crucial both for musicians performing in an orchestra and doctors treating patients. Both disciplines require “passion, focus, training, and the sharing of humanity with those around us,” and for doctors who need to suppress their own emotions in professional situations, playing music can be a welcome release. Wong also discusses the clinical benefits of listening to music—e.g., stroke victims who regain their lost ability to speak by singing; withdrawn patients suffering from dementia who become responsive through music—and pays special tribute to Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Prize–winning doctor whose combined career as a missionary and musician remains an inspiration.
Wong's message is simple yet profound: Music heals.