A Special Treat

Louise Rose and Frank DeMiero
I love when you feel like you are exactly where you are supposed to be. I felt that way last Monday during what I thought was going to be just another boring class.

One of my professors- Dr. M (who is already in the running for one of my favorite professors/people of all time), surprised my entire class with a "special session" featuring two music legends- Frank DeMiero and Louise Rose. Admittedly, none of us knew who they were or what they were doing there when we first entered the beautiful chapel, where one hundred or so chairs encompassed a beautiful black piano forte, but we knew they were there for a reason and that we were going to experience something extraordinary.

I have to say, once I saw Dr.M with that grin on his face, and remembered his love for music (demonstrated by the fact that wherever he is, there is some beautiful jazz music playing), I knew he was up to something.  Dr. M has a special knack for reading people by observing carefully and listening even more.  He is also able to simplify every situation and help us uncover the truth of the matter and the truth of our feelings- in both an academic and personal sense, which is what I think makes him such a profound educator. He always asks us, What do you see? NOT What do you know? or What is this?. With that said, I believe he was in tune with the fact that as first-quarter-first-year medical students, our confidence and faith was dwindling, to put it lightly.  We just survived our first round of midterms, and most of us were feeling....dead inside. We were exhausted, doubtful, irritated, scared, anxious, etc.  I personally was losing touch with my abilities and to some extent, my soul. Intense, right? It is what it is.

After we all took our seats and started hypothesizing about what was going on after spotting a few of our other teachers as well as the President of our school, Dr. M introduced his two friends, and we were instantly pumped. Mr. DeMiero was up first.  Turns out that he is an incredibly talented and well known jazz musician/conductor, and is one of the voters in the Grammy's! Crazy, right? Well, we instantly felt comfortable around him and gave him a warm welcome because he had a funny, honest, warm, and almost goofy quality about him. Within a few minutes of knowing him, he became the Italian grandpa we never had. Mr. DeMiero attempted to break the ice and help us feel more comfortable. He asked us what our first memory was, which yielded some really interesting answers. DeMiero told us about his first memory, then dropped the bomb that we were going to learn how to sing Dona Nobis Pacem. We were all shocked. I personally expected to be serenaded once he was introduced to us! LOL. But, I was also super excited because I have a strong musical background and haven't read music in years (I don't think I've told you guys this! I play(ed) the violin, clarinet, and piano since I was a kid. I also sing). We were a bit shy at first. Even though he broke us up into four sections, with about 30 people in each session, we were all self-conscious and felt as if it was a task that we were being judged on- alas, medical school....we're judged and tested every day...But, after a trying a few times, we all got the hang of it and actually sounded good. But this didn't happen until he taught us how to sing with welcoming faces, to sing from the heart, and to sing with intent.  There came a point when we realized that we were able to learn a new song (with a 3 part harmony) and sing it well within an hour, and enjoy the process. This was the point. Mr. DeMiero then invited us to join is reherssal-free choir that meets every Tuesday. We were grateful and so ready for our next "lesson" from Ms. Rose.

Now, as a black woman, I was soooooooooooooo happy to see another black woman, especially one so talented and experienced as Ms. Rose, who has played with Duke Ellington and Leonard Bernstein (whoaaaaa). I, and probably just a few others, felt instantly attracted to the strong Louise Rose, who had a beautiful and powerful presence, which I sensed actually made a few people a little nervous (this is to be expected as most people tend to be intimidated by strong, confident, talented black women...but that's another story...) due to the straightened postures, nervous giggling, and lack of clapping once she was introduced.  But, I wasn't worried about that, because lessons were about to be learned, in a different and profound way.  Within half an hour, Ms. Rose became that loving, wise, no-nonsense mysterious auntie that we never had. Ms. Rose asked the tough questions that penetrated us deeply. Why are you here? Why are you doing what you are doing? Is your work inspired? If there was nothing in it for you, would you still do it? Who are you? What do you believe in? What is faith? What is doubt? What is confidence? She really touched a deep place in us- probably a place where many of us haven't been. That deep place was familiar territory for me since my soul always dwells in deep places, but it was quite spectacular to experience that with my classmates, since again, most of us felt as if our souls were stripped due to the robotic nature of medical school.  Ms. Rose proceeded to play us some beautiful pieces on the piano, and she played them with heart and soul. Then, she taught us the words to the song (though 2/3 or the class already knew the words since Dr. M played the song for some sections before Physiology lab the week before), and we sang with her.  Then we sang and we sang and we sang until it became second nature. And we danced and we smiled and we teared up and we laughed as we sang the words to Bing Crosby's Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive. The words went a little bit like this:

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene...

We finished the session feeling ready to take on the world.  We remembered what was important- why we are doing this work- who we are- what we love. We were able to reach deep within and reclaim our purpose, and that is so special. This all happened because we were able to let go, learn something new, embrace a new experience, improvise, and collaborate- all within 1 hour and 50 minutes, the standard amount of class time.

I love Bastyr. I can't help but feel so deeply appreciative of it. Really and truly, I have never been around so many profound educators, such as Dr. M. I mean what type of school do we go to where our teachers organize professional jazz musicians to teach us music and bedazzle us with not only their talent, but with their lessons? What type or medical school actually nurtures us as doctors, thinkers, and people? Where else do teachers insist that we walk around and stretch during the half-time of exams? Tell me, where else do teachers lead students in meditation (which I use for prayer to Jesus and Jesus only), before proceeding with the day's lesson? I had similar questions during our first exam where Dr. M played us some jazz music to help ease off the stress, or when my Anatomy lab professor met up with me to help me deal with my new-found anxiety in the funniest of ways, or when another professor told me about her unique past as we shared stories in the medicinal garden.  Bastyr is a special place. It's not perfect- it really isn't, but it's surely special. After this session, I was even more convinced that I was placed (by God) in this space for a reason. This is where I was meant to think, to feel, to learn, and to grow.

I can't wait 'til the next lesson. And I thank, Dr. M and his two friends.
I really wish I took a picture of Dr. M. It would have made the picture complete...
Louise Rose and Frank DeMiero :)

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