Cedars-Sinai Blog

Science and Music: The LA Doctors Symphony Orchestra

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When Gillian Gresham, PhD, first moved to Los Angeles to be a postdoctoral cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai, she wanted to find a way to flex her creative muscles. 

As a lifelong violin player and former music minor, she was hoping to find an outlet that would work with her busy schedule. 

"There's a strong connection between science and music, so it's a natural fit for so many of us."

"Although I pursued a scientific career, music has always been an important part of my life. I wanted to find a way to continue to play and be part of an orchestra again," says Gillian.

"There's a strong connection between science and music, so it's a natural fit for so many of us."

An internet search led her to the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, which happens to trace its roots back to Cedars-Sinai

The orchestra was founded in 1953 by Dr. Reuben Strauss, director of laboratories at Cedars of Lebanon, one half of what would later become Cedars-Sinai. The orchestra started with 35 doctors, dentists, nurses, and veterinarians.  

Today, despite the name, the group welcomes professionals from all fields. Members come from education, law, science, and of course, healthcare. Led by musical director Dr. Ivan Shulman, the ensemble performs 4 concerts each year. 

After joining the orchestra, Gillian recruited neuro-oncologist and fellow violinist Dr. Jethro Hu to join.  

"When Gillian first told me about the group, I thought there was no way I would cut the mustard," says Dr. Hu, who played violin in high school but abandoned it during college. 

"I realized it was something I was missing since I stopped playing 20 years ago, so I decided to give it a shot."

Now, both musicians enjoy the opportunity to let go of the stresses of their jobs at weekly rehearsals on Tuesday nights. 

"I love being able to focus on the music and shut off the other side of my brain," says Gillian. " I enjoy being immersed in it each week, it's very therapeutic for me." 

"It forces you to be focused on the moment and not be thinking about anything else," says Dr. Hu. "You can feel free to express yourself in a way that there's really no substitute for, and it's given me balance in my life."

Dr. Hu has also connected with his kids through music. 

"Both of my kids are starting to play," he says. "Instead of telling them to go practice, I play with them. We get to talk about music and practice together."