Columbia University Medical Center

Orchestra Reborn After Decade-Long Hiatus

Intensive Weekend Rehearsal to Culminate in Sunday Afternoon Concert

Many at CUMC fondly remember the performances of the CUMC Symphony Orchestra, but nobody recalls exactly when it last performed—just that it has been too long. That will change on Sunday, Nov. 17, when the group will play again for the first time in approximately 10 years, at 3 p.m. in Alumni Auditorium.

A performance of the CUMC Orchestra in 2003, one of its last concerts.

A 2003 performance of the CUMC Symphony Orchestra, one of its last concerts.

The orchestra, which evolved from the Bard Chamber Orchestra, was formed in 1992 by Drs. Julie Lin and Frank David, as a way to bring together musicians from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Every year, medical students, postdocs, attending physicians, and faculty would meet for an intensive day of rehearsals that culminated in a performance.

One of those helping to make this Sunday’s performance happen is Hanjay Wang, P&S ’15, the orchestra’s conductor. When Mr. Wang heard about the orchestra during an admissions interview, his interest was piqued, particularly since it was so long since it had performed.

“To me, it sounded like it would be a really enjoyable experience,” said Mr. Wang. “So when I heard that it was many years since anyone had organized the concerts, I thought it would be an interesting project to work on when I came to P&S.”

Mr. Wang, a trained pianist and experienced conductor, was contacted by the P&S Alumni Association to help revive the orchestra, along with Yi Cai P&S ’16, Elliott Huang P&S ’15, Greg Sheehan P&S ’16, and Portia Sirinek P&S ’16. They decided to open the group up to the entire CUMC community, including students, faculty, and staff of all levels of experience.

“Our goal was to create something as inclusive as possible,” said Mr. Wang.

The inclusiveness is both the strength and the challenge of the orchestra—more than 100 people wanted to join, making the initial goal of weekly rehearsals impossible. They decided instead to schedule a single weekend of rehearsals — nine hours of rehearsal on Saturday and six on Sunday — culminating in a Sunday-afternoon performance. Performers will include students from all four CUMC schools and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as faculty and staff.

Mr. Wang is excited about the concert, but the short rehearsal time, as well as the range of experience, will challenge him as a conductor. He hopes that well-considered seating arrangements will help with the latter issue.

“We decided to seat more seasoned musicians next to less-experienced ones. That way, not only will people meet others they do not know—someone from Public Health might be seated next to someone from P&S—but they’ll be able to teach and learn from one another,” said Mr. Wang.

The event, which takes place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, in Alumni Auditorium at 650 W. 168th St., is free and open to the public.  Find more details here.