Chaos usually comes with the territory when Dr. David Frank is providing medical care. He’s an emergency-room physician at Virginia Mason Medical Center.
But the 53-year-old Kenmore resident has found a more tranquil setting for his life’s work. It’s in the concert hall.
Frank traded his white lab coat for evening attire last month to play clarinet with the first-ever World Doctors Orchestra.
The group performed two benefit concerts in Germany during May to raise money for people in need of health care.
Proceeds from the shows went toward two aid projects: the Hugo Tempelman Foundation — dedicated to the fight against AIDS in South Africa — and the Hilfswerk Indien e.V., which provides mobile medical treatment for people with leprosy in India.
Around 70 doctors from more than 20 countries participated in the orchestra during its inaugural year.
“I felt honored to be a part of that,” Frank said.
More charity concerts are planned for 2009, and the original orchestra members will have first dibs on being involved.
“I’ll do it again in a heartbeat,” Frank said.
Stefan Willich is the group’s conductor. He founded the World Doctors Orchestra in 2007 with the goal of creating a global symphony that would support the development of worldwide medical care and health policies.
Willich is a professor of medicine at Europe’s largest medical school, Berlin’s Charite´ University Medical Center.
The orchestra performed its first concert for patients there May 3. A second show took place at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall.
Numbers for the show included works by Beethoven, Dvorak and Donizetti.
The performers received their music in February after getting word that they’d been accepted into the program. Each player was expected to practice their parts at home.
“David’s a very disciplined person,” said Frank’s wife, Sharon. “He worked at it for at least an hour every day.”
All that self-training paid off when the performers met for three eight-hour rehearsals immediately before the European concerts.
“We were all really impressed because everyone seemed to be at the same playing level,” Frank said. “We had no idea if it would be incredible playing or abysmal. Right away, we knew there were a lot of good players.”
Frank’s stay in Germany lasted just four days, but he managed to find time for a walking tour of Berlin with one of his European counterparts who was raised in the city.
“He lived there before, during and after the Berlin Wall,” Frank said. “To me, it was very striking. I could see his memories of what his neighborhood was like.”
Unlike some doctors, Frank didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in medicine. He earned a degree in music education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and became a teacher for one year.
“I realized it just wasn’t for me,” Frank said. “The most effective teachers are people who have strong personalities. They’re great motivators who are great at capturing students’ attention, almost like actors. I didn’t feel I had those qualities.”
Many school districts were also trimming their music and arts programs at the time.
Franks opted for a more stable field of work. It took six more years of schooling and an 80-hours-a-week residency, but he had found a career that fit.
“I enjoy the face-to-face contact and dealing with critical situations that are happening right before my eyes,” Frank said.
“I feel stimulated, like I’m able to help people and make a difference immediately. It motivates me.”
The work is notably different from playing clarinet in his living room each day.
“My job can, at times, be very intense,” Frank said. “I find that playing music is a great stress reliever.”
The World Doctor’s Orchestra is proving that it can be a healer, as well.