Musical Medicine: California surgeon plays duets with patient before surgery

January 4, 2016, 9:05 AM · Some doctors have better bedside manner than others, but certainly Dr. William Sloan took the prize last month for harmonious interaction with his patient.

Dr. Sloan, a urologist and amateur violinist, played several duets with his patient, Sergio Vigilato, a professional musician who sang and played on an acoustic guitar, just before going into the operating room for surgery at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial in the Los Angeles area. The two played duets, including "Tennessee Waltz." They might have continued all day long if not for the fact that several surgeries were scheduled for the day. It's certainly a beautiful interaction to behold, and to me, it illustrates many of the fundamental reasons why we play music:

Dr. Sloan and Patient - Performing a Soothing Duet Before Surgery from Dignity Health Glendale Memorial.

If Dr. Sloan looks or sounds familiar to you, it might be because he has been a great supporter of the art of violin for a long time. The owner of the 1714 “Leonora Jackson” Stradivari and a 1742 Guarneri del Gesù, Dr. Sloan has been generous in lending his violins both to artists for performing and to violin makers for studying and copying.

And as if that weren't enough, Dr. Sloan has actually used those surgeon's hands to make three violins. He is a regular participant at the Violin Society of America's annual summer workshops at Oberlin College, where he has completed the creation of three instruments. I had the great privilege of playing his second one ("Sloaneri #2" he calls it), which he generously loaned to me while my Gagliano was being repaired last summer; it was lovely to play and I even used it in a quartet recital.

Dr. Sloan and his wife, Judy, also hold an annual Boxing Day tradition -- every year musicians from far and wide gather at their home in Los Angeles to play Handel's Messiah on the day after Christmas-- just for fun. The home has its own story; it was previously own by Alexander Borisoff, the late principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who had guests over to play in the music room -- guests such as cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and violinists Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein and Albert Einstein!

The point is that here a very busy person, who nonetheless finds the time to allow musical connections to grow, even in the most unlikely of places.
Music helps us build each other's spirits; it feeds our own souls. In all the lessons we learn about the violin -- how to play in tune and in time and on the right part of the string -- let's not forget that one.

By the way, the patient is doing well!

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January 4, 2016 at 05:01 PM · Love this!

January 5, 2016 at 02:11 AM · This is great! Thanks for sharing this.

January 9, 2016 at 02:54 AM · This has a superficial resemblance to the Nordoff-Robbins method of Music Therapy. Only, in this case, who was the therapist and who was the patient? (I'm sure Dr Sloan too could do with calming before the trauma of an operation)

Talking of Music Therapy, has anyone tried combining in some way the Nordoff-Robbins approach with that of Paul and Chika Robertson?

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