Symphony of the Heart and World Doctors Orchestra

 by Arlene Stolnitz

Recently, I had an appointment with my physician, Dr. Robert Felman, a gastroenterologist who practices in Venice.

I knew that Bob is a musician who plays clarinet around town in various local groups including

The Venice Concert Band and Klezmania on the Gulf. What I did not know was that he is a member of the World Doctors Orchestra whose program I picked up as I was checking out.

So who is this orchestra that I had never known anything about? I was surprised to find out that over 1200 physicians from about 50 nations “trade their white coats for evening attire and perform benefit concerts for those in need of health care.”

On February 6, 2019 the orchestra, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Stefan Willich, presented a concert entitled Symphony of the Heart in the Jerusalem Theater, Jerusalem. On the following night they played in the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, Tel Aviv. Both concerts were in support of

Save a Child’s Heart, an international pediatric cardiac center at the Wolfs Medical Center in Israel which serves as a children’s hospital for the local Israeli population. Under construction, the hospital is set to be finished later this year. To date, they have provided care for 5000 children from nearly 58 developing countries and trained more than 120 medical team members from these countries.

World Doctors Orchestra is a registered nonprofit organization that combines the pleasure of music with charity. It made its debut in Berlin Philharmonic Hall in May 2008. Its US premier took place in Cleveland with concerts following in countries around the world. Founder and Conductor of the orchestra is Prof. Dr. Stefan Willich, a highly regarded cardiologist and researcher with an extensive musical background in violin, chamber music and conducting. As artistic director, his experience has taken him to places such as Stuttgart, Berlin, Paris and Tanglewood in the US.

Looking through the program, names from nearly every country in the world appear.  Violinists from Germany, Spain, Australia, Switzerland, South Africa; violas from UK, Rochester, MN, Italy, Israel;  double bass players from Germany, Italy. the list goes on and on as each instrument in the orchestra is represented by musicians from around the world.

The World Doctors Orchestra is driven by the spirit of its players. The participants cover their own travel expenses and local costs are kept at a low level. The orchestra has more than 1,300 participants from all over the world. All participants are medical professionals and, at the same time, enthusiastic and active musicians, many of them with professional musical backgrounds. A great variety of medical specialties are represented. Specialists in internal medicine, general medicine and child and youth medicine take the lead. There is a wide variety of specialization in diagnostic and therapeutic areas, as well as in pharmacology. About 100 musicians participate in each concert, depending on the instruments needed for each concert. The Board of Trustees includes such well-known musicians as Martin Hoffman, General Manager of Berliner Philharmoniker, and Honorary Member Maestro Zubin Mehta.

The recent February concerts in Israel featured a program of music that included

Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and a selection of popular works with beautiful and talented Ester Rada, Ethiopian- Israeli jazz singer. (Check out her innovative video Life Happens on You Tube.)

Dr. Felman told me his next gig with the group will be in Houston in August in conjunction with the Texas Medical Center Orchestra. Their performance will include Brahms Symphony 3, Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 1, and Copland Outdoor Overture. Wouldn’t you love to go?