AMS Musicale: An Interview with Organizer Chris Demas ’21

Musicale is an annual concert put on for and by medical students and faculty, showcasing the incredible talent at AMS. This year’s Musicale took place in Sayles Hall, a Romanesque-style building on the center of Brown University’s Main Green. Students and staff gathered together on a frigid Saturday night to enjoy a night of captivating musical performances ranging from classical to jazz. Murmur had the chance to ask the organizer of this event, Chris Demas, a few questions about the concert and about his experience playing violin in front of his peers.


Why did you take on the responsibility of organizing Musicale?

This was my first time taking on the responsibility of organizing a concert, so I didn’t know what I was getting into. What initially got me interested in taking on the lead role was seeing the beautiful pictures of Sayles Hall and all of the performers in that space from 2017. I wanted to put aside a night for the AMS community to gather and share music again this year. All throughout my life music has been the way I have connected with people and I wanted to share that experience with others. Music also has a strong healing and restorative component that I thought others within the AMS community would enjoy.

Why do you continue to play in medical school?

I think when things get tough, the worst thing that you can do is give up on things you are most passionate about. I get my energy and motivation from playing music. It fills my time in a productive way that clears my mind and makes me feel reenergized. I really enjoy having music goals and expectations for myself for practicing. Just as many people read books and sets aside time specifically for pleasure reading, I set aside time for and expectations for my musical development. I think there is something really satisfying to work on a piece of music over an extended period of time.

What tips do you have for Murmur readers on how to most enjoy listening to classical music?

There is one thing you must do when you listen to classical music. You need to be focused– so find a comfortable place to be and flip your phone to silent. Classical music is highly purposeful. A way to notice this quality of the music is to listen for the silence. Pay attention for when there is no music being played since everything (should be) intentional. I think another helpful tip on how to listen to classical music is to read a little about the composer or the story behind the piece before listening to the music. This sets the tone and allows you to create imagery in your mind as you listen.

How does it feel to play in front of an audience?

I used to get very nervous before playing in front of an audience. I no longer get nervous about the performance and playing in front of others but rather the pressure to play it right at that particular moment.

For example, the piece I played– Legende by Wieniawski– was one I had started working on back in college during my senior year. I never finished the piece at the time and wanted to bring it back and relearn the piece for the concert. Even though I had played the piece for probably 3 months in college I gave myself 15 weeks to rework the piece. Each week I would play my violin 3-4 times after classes. I would practice the music measure-by- measure and note-by-note to determine out how to play the piece and invoke the right feelings for a listener.

Violin showpieces are typically right at the edge of what is possible to play given the human anatomy; For someone why has only been playing for 15 years, it takes at least 15 weeks to figure out how to do that.

I’ve also found, that with music there is a very low tolerability for errors. If you passed the piece, lets say played 70% of the notes right and rhythms correctly, the piece would not only sound like garbage but it would be semi-nauseating to listen to. Music on a violin needs to be played to the precision of 99% correct to sound good and 99.9999% to sound ready for performance. So for 15 weeks I worked on perfecting that last 1% of the piece to get it as close as I could to what the composer was looking for.

When I played the piece I was a little surprised by how shaky my hands were at the start of the piece. I was not actively nervous, however, my body was still sympathetically stimulated with the excitement of the moment and the interest of doing well.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone that made Musicale come together this year, from our dedicated performs to the audience that came from far and near! I look forward to having you again next year and seeing this wonderful tradition continue into the future!

Link to the full recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5TIXQo8kXE&feature=youtu.be

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