You may have heard the song "Heartstrings" while you're waiting for your latte at Starbucks, and figured you are listening to another talented singer/songwriter whose sound reminds you or Bonnie Raitt or Patsy Cline.
But rarely do you imagine as you hear the latest song on the radio, or Spotify, that the voice you are hearing is that of the doctor you might see in the emergency room if you are having a heart attack and are brought to a Philadelphia ER!
Now I myself did the whole performer/dancer career before I went back to school to get my degree to hang up my shingle as a psychotherapist, and I know plenty of people like myself: we do the arts thing, have some modicum of success, and then we figure out our next move.
Suzie Brown however, has done it differently. After hearing her play at a club on the lower east side one summer Sunday afternoon and loving her music, I had to learn more about her path from cardiologist to musician. With an album about to launch October 1st which she recorded in Nashville with Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers), she's the winner of Philadelphia Magazine's 2010 'Best of Philly' for music talent, was nominated for two 2012 Independent Music Awards, and named a Regional Finalist in the current Mountain Stage NewSong contest among others too long to list. I was so curious about Dr. Brown's path to music; how did she do it? When did she start playing, and when did she begin to focus on her musical career?
"I went to Dartmouth for undergrad." Suzie stated. "Between college and medical school I worked in an endocrine oncology lab for two years. That was when I started to learn how to play the guitar. I went to medical school at Harvard next and then straight into a residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. After that I moved to Philadelphia to do my cardiology fellowship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. After my fellowship I got a job at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia as co-director of Heart Failure in the Division of Cardiology. I'm a cardiologist who specializes in heart failure, i.e. weak hearts."
"I don't really ever integrate music into my job as a cardiologist. I keep them pretty separate. I had been playing guitar and singing privately and with friends all along throughout my medical training. I was also in a (shameless) cover band during residency. During my last two years of fellowship I was doing a masters degree in translational research, and had my nights and weekends free for the first time in over a decade, and generally a pretty flexible schedule during the day. As I was nearing the end of my training and facing the prospect of a full time job in academic medicine, I began to feel like I was in jail. I had been drawn to music my whole life, but the pull toward music became stronger and stronger. It was hard to understand because I had never even written a song. I just needed more music in my life. I finally took the plunge and wrote my first song. I sang it (completely anonymously) at an open mike and became completely hooked."
"I had never really thought I could be a professional musician. It didn't even cross my mind. I was always good at math and science and liked interacting with people, so medicine seemed like a perfect field for me. Music was a private thing for me. I sang in my bedroom and later found friends to share music with. I didn't have the confidence to pursue it in a more formal way at that time. During my last year of college I impulsively tried out for an a cappella group -- I had wanted to do it all along but was too chicken. I made the group and it was an 'aha' moment/year -- I realized that musicians were my people! And that expressing myself through singing in this more formal and public way made me feel ways I had never felt before. The summer before medical school (after working in the lab for two years) I went to Berklee College of Music's summer performance camp for four weeks. That was the first time I really delved into music in a formal way -- i.e., lessons and formal training. At the end of the summer I had a complete breakdown, because I didn't want it to end. But my voice teacher told me to 'go to medical school, and make time for music later'. Little did I know then how literally I would end up taking her advice!"
"The order of things -- it wasn't premeditated -- it's just how things happened. In some ways I regret that I came to this so relatively late in life. I wish I had been spending my teens and 20s practicing and diving into it and accumulating my 10000 hours ;). And in other ways I'm grateful, because I have a career that I love that can support me working part time. It gives me creative freedom because I don't have to depend on music for money."
For more information, visit www.suziebrownsongs.com, and look out for her new album "Almost There", produced by Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) who also contributes some gorgeous background vocals, and Grammy award-winner Scot Sax.
Your ears, heart and soul will be very happy!
Visit me at: www.donnafish.com