I grew up in Toronto during the 1960’s, surrounded by the music of that time. The first two albums I bought were “Lightfoot” and “Sgt Pepper”. I received a guitar as a gift when I was 12, and it became my best friend. Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn, James Taylor, and John Martyn (among others) became my musical heroes. I went to hear them play and watched their fingers intently; inspired, I began writing my own songs. I played open mike nights at Egerton’s, Shier’s, and even the Riverboat in Yorkville. I played with friends, and I played with strangers. Through high school, university and then medical school, music was who I was, and playing music was how I interacted with the world around me.
At a certain point, I had to decide what to do with my life: would I pursue music full-time, or would I choose a profession? I decided on a profession: I would become a pediatric surgeon. A new passion, full of challenges. I had to master a vast body of knowledge, develop fine technical skills (that used some of the same dexterity that my guitar required), and acquire the judgment and experience necessary to excel in helping children to heal.
To succeed, I worked 100-hour weeks and focused totally on becoming the best pediatric surgeon I could be. I didn’t lose my music, but it faded into the background, emerging only occasionally when I dusted off the guitar and played for my own enjoyment, or joined in a singsong around the campfire.
During the 35 years I’ve been a doctor, I’ve operated on thousands of children. I’ve separated conjoined twins, helped to develop innovative surgical techniques, published hundreds of research papers, held leadership positions locally and internationally, and taught a new generation of pediatric surgeons how to do what I do . It’s been a great run. But I’ve always missed the music.
This project came to life during a recent sabbatical from my surgical practice. I found myself with some time to myself, for the first time in decades, and the music peeked its head out and beckoned me to play. I began to play my songs again, and it felt wonderful. I contacted friends and family who I had played and sung with over the years to see if they were interested in playing and singing with me again.
As the project developed, the music took on new life: it became a vehicle for me to redefine my priorities and create a new balance in my life. In returning to my music, I’ve reconnected with many people from my past, learned about the creative recording process, and tapped into a source of energy that invigorates my creativity both as a surgeon and as a musician.
I hope you enjoy it.
Photographer: John Migicovsky
Photo location courtesy of Arta Gallery, Toronto