Music and Medicine: Albany Med Orchestra, Chorale Continues Tradition

Dr. Martha Lepow, center, pictured with the Albany Med Chorale and Orchestra in 2019.

Whether it’s playing an instrument, taking in a concert or singing along to our favorite song in the car or shower, music often serves as a way to bring balance to our lives.

It’s a perspective that wasn’t lost on Dr. Martha Lepow, who passed away in October at the age of 94. An accomplished pianist, Dr. Lepow, a distinguished physician and tireless researcher regarded as the nation’s leading pediatric infectious disease specialist, was also the founder of the Albany Med Orchestra & Chorale, which is comprised of medical students, faculty and employees.

The group is open to anyone with ties to the medical center.

“Dr. Lepow’s view was that you had your work but it was also important that you maintained your well-being outside of work,” said Matthew Leinung, MD, assistant dean for curricular integration and faculty lead for the ensembles.

Dr. Leinung is a tenor and French Horn player who has been a part of the musical groups for more than a decade. His wife, Cynthia Miller, MD, Medical Director of the HIV Program at Albany Med, is also a member of the music ensemble.

For Dr. Leinung, part of the appeal of participating has to do with balance, even on the busiest of days.

“There have been days where I have work, as well as rehearsal with the chorale and the orchestra, but it ends up being a refreshing day,” says Dr. Leinung. “That last two to three hours of the day – playing music – it clears my head.”

Samantha Wong, ’22, a fourth-year medical student, was a member of her high school choir along with other music groups. She jumped at the chance to join the chorale when she came to Albany Medical College.

“I wanted to join for fun and let off some steam,” Wong says. “It was an opportunity to take an hour out of the day and bring music to the hospital and bring music into my life again.”

Wong fondly remembers singing during her first and second year with Dr. Lepow.

“I think Dr. Lepow would’ve been happy to see that we’ve found ways to continue to sing and perform within the hospital, specifically during these tough times during the pandemic,” Wong says.

Walk through Albany Med on a Wednesday evening and you may see or even hear the musicians rehearsing. Practices are held inside Choices Café. In non-pandemic times, two concerts are held inside Albany Med at Choices Café each year as well as performances in the community at locations including the Capital District Psychiatric Center and Beverwyck Senior Community in Slingerlands.

While the number of members has gone up and down over the years, Dr. Leinung says those who take part in the group have kept the focus on having fun and not on perfection.

“The people doing it have always enjoyed each other,” Dr. Leinung says. “This is a venue to go out, have fun, learn something, and grow from it.”