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Insider North Volume 1, Issue 6 (Oct. 24, 2012)
Front page...

Seth McEwan: Making a discernible difference
Value of awards more than a crystal trophy
Greening up our hospitals
Health and Wellness Orchestra: Music for the health of it
Dr. Ann Yanagi: Music and medicine
Border Blood War: It's bloodier than you think
New Greeley center: "Great convenience and wonderful benefit"
Our benefits: changing for the better
Unger vs. Unger
Susan Webster and SANE: Connecting with sexually abused patients

Health and Wellness Orchestra: Music for the health of it

The Poudre Valley Heatlh and Wellness Orchestra preparing for its concert last October.
Tim Klippert:
Dr. Scott Johnston
Susan Epperson
 Dr. Ann Yanagi
By Gary Kimsey

An Internet search of sayings related to the benefits of music springs forth a fountain of creative quotations.

“Music is love in search of a word (Sidney Lanier, American musician in the mid-1800).” “Music is the language of the spirit (Kahlil Gibran, poet in the early 1900s).” “Music is what feelings sound like (author unknown).” “Music is the shorthand of emotion (Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer).” “Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence (Robert Fripp, modern English guitarist).”

And then there’s the quote of employee Tim Klippert: “Music’s just plain good for the soul.”

He quickly adds, “And it’s fun.”

A delightful quote—well, a story, that is—comes from staff member Susan Epperson. She says she’s driven by music. It’s just part of her life. Even when she’s working, she says with a good-natured laugh, she has “a radio on in my head and it’s playing music.”

“One day I was listening in my brain to Phantom of the Opera, and I walked into my director’s office. He was listening to jazz. I told him his music was interfering with the music in my head, and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. So he turned off his music.”

Klippert, the emergency preparedness manager for University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado, and Epperson, quality coordinator for Blood Services, will be among about 70 local musicians who will perform Nov. 4 as part of the Poudre Valley Health and Wellness Orchestra. Admission is free.

Now at the start of its fifth season, the orchestra will play music from such landmark composers as Mozart and Beethoven. Tom Bittinger, principal bassoonist for the Fort Collins Symphony, will be featured, while the musical director will be Leslie Stewart, director of string pedagogy at Colorado State University and frequent performer with the Fort Collins and Cheyenne symphonies.

The orchestra is part of an interesting worldwide trend where physicians have organized symphonies so they have an outlet to express their artistic talents. In some cases, the physicians were musical geniuses in their younger years but temporarily pushed aside their musical acumen in favor of medicine.

The Health and Wellness Orchestra was started in 2008 by Stewart and Dr. Ann Yanagi. Dr. Yanagi put out a call on our employee and physician intranets for musicians from the health-care profession. The initial group was small, about 20 musicians, when it gave its first performance in December 2008 at Poudre Valley Hospital.

“We had heard about a number of people who wanted to play in an orchestra, but there wasn’t room in the Fort Collins Symphony,” Stewart remembers. “So we thought the community of Fort Collins was ripe for a community orchestra. The Health and Wellness Orchestra, which was Ann’s dream, came at the right time for people who work in health care and other musicians in the community.”

{Learn more about Dr. Yanagi and how the orchestra was started: Read an article about her in the Insider North on Oct. 24, 2012.}

The orchestra was initially envisioned as a way to give playing opportunities to employees and health-care associates of Poudre Valley Health System, now called University of Colorado Health, in northern Colorado. Early performers included physicians, registered nurses, unit assistant on a patient-care unit, medical transcriptionist, and employees in such areas as medical records and housekeeping.

Since those early days, the orchestra membership has expanded beyond health-care professionals. Additional players include private music instructors, school music teachers, Colorado State University students and professors, software engineers, and a restaurant owner.

Some musicians are like Klippert. They learned how to play an instrument in high school, then set it aside for a while but never really lost the love for it. Klippert played percussion instruments in his high school marching band in Yakima, Wash. “It’s fun to make loud noises,” he quips.

On a serious side: “I enjoy playing because it activates the musical part of my brain that I haven’t used in a long time. It makes me think, keep time and count, and read music again.”

Epperson, meanwhile, started playing the flute in junior high school in Denison, Texas. She played in the "Goin' Band from Raiderland" while attending Texas Tech in Lubbock and has continued playing since. About a decade ago she joined the Northern Colorado Concert Band and plays on the worship musical group for her church, the Good Shepard Bible Chapel.

She had never played with an orchestra, however, something she wanted to do. Her son, Nathan, kept encouraging her. “I told him you just don’t go out and play for a symphony,” she recalls. Then one day she happed to be at Medical Center of the Rockies as the Health and Wellness Orchestra set up for a performance. “So I stayed and listened to them.” The next step was to contact Stewart, and now Epperson is in her fourth season with the orchestra.

“It’s was a new experience for me,” she says. “I had always played in a band before.”

The orchestra has increased its benefits in other ways beyond providing free symphonic enjoyment for the community. During the last two concerts, for example, donations were accepted to help fund the Poudre Valley Cancer Center. A total of about $3,000 was raised. The Nov. 4 free performance will also accept donations for the Cancer Center.

Members of the orchestra have also donated their time and talents to provide chamber music—string quartets and small ensembles—for patients and employees at PVH and MCR. They have also performed in local retirement centers and played for community residents who are members of the Aspen Club.

About the April 14 concert ... and more

On April 14, the orchestra will perform works by Dvorak, Brahms and Strauss at 3 p.m. in Colorado State University's Griffin Center for the Arts. The following concert will beging at 7:30 p.m. June 15 at the Colorado State University Griffin Center for the Arts.

A note to aspiring musicians: The orchestra is seeking musicians who play the trombone and trumpet. String performers are also welcomed, especially those who play the viola. Contact Dr. Yanagi at for more information.

Photographs were taken by Mary Pridgen of Bare Bones Photography. She is Fort Collins photogragher who has taken photos for our health system for two decades. Gary Kimsey, who wrote the article, works in marketing for University of Colorado Health. .
Leslie Stewart, director
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