The Longwood Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in Boston Massachusetts, is a group of physicians who also play together as musicians on the side. They bring free chamber music directly to patients who can no longer attend concerts. The LSO plays in in hospital wards, rehabilitation centers, hospices, and other healthcare facilities throughout the state of Massachusetts.
In Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine, author and current LSO President Lisa Wong traces its history since its founding in 1982. Biographies of some of her musical and medical colleagues in the LSO are covered. What they all have in common is a belief that playing for the Orchestra has greatly helped them in their relationships with their patients. When these doctors play music, they become better attuned to their patients’ emotional state of mind.
The LSO has a three-part mission. The first is the concert performances at health and medical facilities across the state of Massachusetts. Wong defines this as “Healing the Community through Music.” The second is “Community Engagement.” Chamber groups of young doctors and medical students are sent to perform in hospitals, hospices, and Alzheimer units. According to Dr. Wong, “studying the impact of chamber music on Alzheimer’s patients and senior citizens, their families, and their caregivers has the potential of changing the way we care for our aging population.” “Educational Work” is the third part, which consists of symposia that draws colleagues from across the country to discuss topics such as “Crossing the Corpus Collusum: Neuroscience, Healing, and Music.” This is an example of one which was hosted by the LSO, in partnership with “The Lab at Harvard University.” Topics that attendees addressed for this symposium were about how music can help in recovery from neurological disorders, how music shapes the developing brain, and if music can “be the way towards recovering functions for individuals with autism.”
Most promising is a trend of some medical schools in thinking about how to integrate c curriculum of humanities into medical practice. Wong cites Harvard, Stanford and Dalhousie as examples of schools where a professor may encourage a first-year medical student to create art to express feelings about a first encounter with a cadaver.
Below you will find a YouTube video of Dr. Wong elaborating on the purpose of the LSO and its impact on doctor and patient alike.