Making Music

September 1, 2005

It may come as no surprise to many patients of Richard Gotlib, MD, PhD, that he is passionate about his life's work as an ophthalmologist.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that the glaucoma specialist has a regular "gig" with a local civic orchestra. In addition, the concert cellist and accomplished pianist seeks out and studies lesser-known composers in an effort to appreciate music and share it with others.

The opening notes

"It's a good pattern-to learn piano and then a second instrument later. Piano introduces you to multiple notes, chord structure, and different clefs," said Dr. Gotlib, of Lindenhurst Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Long Island, NY. "Piano lessons are a good place to learn music theory."

Musical interests run in the family. Dr. Gotlib's father also was a musician (and a doctor). Dr. Gotlib is already working with his 8-year-old daughter as she begins to build this musical foundation through piano lessons.

He added that his early teachers made music enjoyable and exposed him to interesting things. Was Dr. Gotlib ever tempted to entertain any thought of a musical career instead of ophthalmology?

"It would have been a tough job to be a musician," Dr. Gotlib said. "Making it a career might have sucked the enjoyment out of it."

He prefers to keep music a special hobby. Today, Dr. Gotlib's interest lies more in playing music than in listening to it.

"I like to participate in the act of making music," he said.

Finding the time

In the past couple of years, as his daughters have grown older, Dr. Gotlib has found more time for music. He plays assistant principal (second chair) cello with a local civic orchestra composed of high-level amateurs.

"When I play by myself, it's difficult to schedule," Dr. Gotlib said. "The orchestra is scheduled during the school year and that helps me make time. It becomes a routine and doesn't fall by the wayside as it might if I was playing individually."

Becoming involved with the orchestra has spawned more musical endeavors, he added.

Dr. Gotlib also spends time playing his cello with a local pianist. The duo enjoy music written specifically for the piano and cello.

The pianist contacted Dr. Gotlib after reading about him in an online directory of amateur chamber music players. They work on music together-just for themselves-during evenings here and there.

"We are going through a lot of music literature for the cello and piano," he said. "It's kind of new for both of us. It's good to have someone to call and play with. It's an impetus to play music."

Patients may be surprised when they see him playing in the orchestra, Dr. Gotlib expects. The assumption seems to be that he doesn't have time for such a pursuit.

He said they react favorably. Sometimes, patients even bring in musical scores for him.

"Otherwise though, music is my hobby and ophthalmology is my job. The two stay mostly separate," he said.