The NSW Doctors Orchestra is a classical orchestra of doctors and medical students from all areas of NSW who come together at least annually to play in aid of charities in both the arts and medicine.
The NSW Doctors Orchestra was founded in 2004 by Sydney general practitioner and psychotherapist Cathy Fraser. It is also known as "Musicus Medicus", reflecting the Latin for Musician and Physician. As a result of playing annually in the national Australian Doctors Orchestra (ADO) at a variety of cities countrywide, the concept of a state orchestra evolved. She suspected that her musical colleagues in NSW would welcome the added opportunity to play regularly in a smaller orchestra. The inaugural Musicus Medicus concert took place on 31 October 2004, in City Recital Hall Angel Place, conducted by Nicolette Fraillon, with pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk as soloist. Due to the enthusiasm and success, concerts have been held every year since.
Our resident artistic director and conductor since 2005 has been Dr David Banney, a Newcastle doctor. Players come from all parts of NSW, rural, regional and metropolitan, several travelling long distances from country areas of NSW. The orchestra comprises both doctors and medical students, representing general practice and all specialties. We have over 250 members on our database, and about 80 of those come together at one time to play in the orchestra. Each concert is the culmination over many months of work by many people who have shared a dream which has become a reality, that of combining our passion for music with our professional commitments in medicine.
We are sent out the music scores a couple of months prior to the concert, and rehearse alone in our own time, only coming together for 2 weekends of rehearsals before our performance. Our preparation is helped by professional musicians who tutor our different sections for half a day. We welcome the opportunity each year for learning from tutors, the experience of playing in an orchestra, and the added inspiration of working with internationally renowned soloists.
We support both the arts and medicine, by donating to the Sydney Eisteddfod, as well as to a different medical charity of our choice each year. The Eisteddfod has served as a launching pad for many of the musicians in the orchestra as well as many of our soloists. We continue to fund their “NSW Doctors Orchestra Instrumental Scholarship” for young soloists aged 16 to 25 years of age. In the past we have also supported the Young Virtuosi Program run by Fine Music 102.5FM. In order to raise as much as possible, we keep our costs low by having as much donated as possible, including our rehearsal venue. However, we couldn’t achieve the success we do without the support and generosity of our sponsors.
In addition to our annual fundraising concerts, we have also welcomed opportunities to take part in a variety of significant events. The first was in 2006 for the 150th Anniversary celebrations for the Sydney University Medical Faculty. This also marked the launching of the world’s first combined music-medicine degree. A new path was opened for students choosing to study music in their intercalated path to medicine. This was followed that same year by the Mater Hospital’s celebration of its Centenary. In 2010, we played in the Great Hall at University of Sydney for a special event. In 2011, we performed as part of the Opening Ceremony at Darling Harbour for an international ophthalmology conference. Smaller groups of our players occasionally form chamber ensembles to play at medical and charity events.
The NSW Doctors Orchestra’s Instrumental Scholarship is a major highlight of the Sydney Eisteddfod program. Read about it here, along with details of all the recent winners.
Our philosophy is to each pay a subscription fee towards covering our costs so that all monies raised can be donated to charities. We hope that our efforts to combine music and medicine encourage medical students and new graduates to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We look forward to many more years of music-making in between our medical duties, while at the same time raising funds for a multitude of worthy causes.