Finding his voice

January 1, 2006

In conjunction with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) meeting in Chicago last October, there was a musical performance tobenefit Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB). The show was titled "Doc Henry's Second Career" and was the first official "gig" of Henry I. Meisels, MD.

In conjunction with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) meeting in Chicago last October, there was a musical performance tobenefit Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB). The show was titled "Doc Henry's Second Career" and was the first official "gig" of Henry I. Meisels, MD.

Dr. Meisels finally did try karaoke at the Cat's Meow in 2001 when he was back in New Orleans for the AAO meeting. With a favorable reception from the audience, his interest in singing was piqued. He began studying at Chicago's reputed Old Town School of Folk Music. He has since taken vocal classes, and he now studies voice and piano privately, spending hours each day honing his talent.

Dr. Meisels explained the impetus for the show.

"It is part of the progression of lessons to have your own gig," Dr. Meisels said. "I thought that doing something in conjunction with the AAO meeting, with my old friends in town, would be fun."

He contacted RPB, arranged to contribute the show's profits to the program, and invited friends and colleagues.

Dr. Meisels was accompanied by his voice coach, Gwen Pippin, and was joined by world-renowned blues pianist Erwin Helfer at the Oct. 16 show in Chicago. It was billed as an eclectic collection of songs and the full house enjoyed tunes ranging from jazz to blues to pop-rock. Dr. Meisels performed several ethnic songs in Yiddish, too.

When asked to describe his style, Dr. Meisels laughed and said it's impossible to describe oneself. However, Dr. Meisels did point out that his singing voice is nothing like his speaking voice and that he has a three-octave range.

In addition, he's developed a broader appreciation of music through the eras and possibly a more cynical viewpoint about artists, since he's now a "jaded professional," he quipped.

Dr. Meisels' tastes have changed some and, as a father of kids in their teens and 20s, he's aware of the newest talents, too.

"There are some great contemporary songwriters," he said. "I like to see them succeed."

Dr. Meisels added that he enjoys picking up trivia about songs and artists as he learns, too.

"Performers and physicians both have to communicate positively and effectively. The most significant quality the two have in common is that feeling one has when there is praise," Dr. Meisels said. "Ophthalmologists feel it when surgery goes really well and a patient is grateful. Performers feel it from applause at the end of the show. It's a great feeling.

"Singing is cheap psychotherapy," he said. "Ophthalmologists need something outside of the office to keep them sane. It can be collecting, sports, or cars, or-for me-singing."

Dr. Meisels finds time to practice his vocals while exercising. He admits that he sometimes is nervous at the beginning of a performance.

"I didn't have too much anxiety before the show, because I knew the material and it's fun," Dr. Meisels said. "But, there are butterflies until I get warmed up, just like with most performers."