The Making of a Band
By day, Pinak Shah, MD, known to
most as "Binny," is an interventional cardiologist at BWH and an assistant
professor at Harvard Medical School. His office on the fifth floor of the Shapiro
Cardiovascular Center is bright and tidy. A row of photos of his three children,
the oldest of whom is 10, is arranged behind his desk. A pair of sneakers rests
on the floor below his desk, waiting for a late-day run.
But occasionally, by night (and
some weekends), Shah is one of two saxophonists for The Dysrhythmics, a band consisting almost entirely
of cardiologists at the Brigham. One of the newer members of the group, Shah says
he enjoys jamming with his fellow cardiologist-musicians to the likes of
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin and performing for the friends and family
who show up to hear them play their hearts out.
Can you tell me about the band and how you
Fred Welt, MD,
dragged me into it. He had been playing for a little while in the band, which
had no horn. He kept telling me, ‘We need a saxophone, we need a saxophone.' So
I agreed a couple of years ago, after not having played for about 14 years. My first
performance with them was in 2010. The group has been around for a long time.
Why did you decide to join?
Peer pressure. I
hadn't played in such a long time, but it was like riding a bike. With some
practice, I was serviceable.
How often do you practice?
We generally cram in
a lot of practice about two months before a scheduled performance. We try to
practice more frequently, but it doesn't always work out. It takes the fear of
getting up on stage and performing in front of our colleagues to get us to practice.
Last May was our most recent performance; we should have another one later in
the fall. We usually play at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge.
Who else is in the band?
William (Bill) Stevenson,
MD, is the ring leader. He's an electrophysiologist and a guitar player. His wife,
Lynne Stevenson, MD, is a heart failure transplant cardiologist and one of our
singers. Fred Welt is our drummer. On bass is electrophysiologist Bruce Koplan,
MD. Our violinist is Usha Tedrow, MD, also an electrophysiologist. Cardiologist
Scott Solomon, MD, is our keyboard player. I play the saxophone, and so does
Paul Holleran, BScRS,
RT (R)(CI), RCIS, who is a radiation technician in the cath lab. Jerry
Brugnoli, RN, who used to work at BWH as an electrophysiology nurse, plays guitar. And Brian Chu, who is the
one non-Brigham, non-medical person, is a singer and a friend of Fred Welt.
For how long have you been playing the
I played nonstop
growing up and continued through college and medical school. As a medical
resident, I stopped playing since there was no forum for it. I was living in
Brookline and didn't want to bother my neighbors. I picked it up a handful of
times between 1994 and joining the band. I enjoyed it; I just got busy in life.
What kind of songs do you play?
We play covers. We've
played Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" and "Tenth Avenue
Freeze-Out," Van Morrison's "Moondance," Black Crowes, Steely Dan, Rush and
So would you describe the band's style as
Yes, and we're
trying to do a little more horn. It tends to be a little metallic.
What has it been like playing with your
It is quite fun.
It's a challenge getting together to practice. Bill [Stevenson]'s house is
where we usually practice, in his basement studio. It's hard for all of us to
get together at the same time, so we hope it all comes together, and usually,
it ends up turning out OK.
What's the best part of being in a band?
It's neat that there
are so many people working here with incredible talents that don't come out
during the day. It's a remarkable group of people. I'm amazed by how talented
How do you find the time to play?
It's tough, and most
of us have young kids, so we practice at obscure times, Sunday evenings
especially. There is also a lot of patience from my wife involved. I practice on
my own late at night in the garage when the kids are asleep.
Who comes to your shows?
That is a good
question. Who in their right mind would spend a weekend evening coming to hear
us? (Laughs.) It's mostly our colleagues, families and friends. Mostly people
who have some kind of relation to us. During the shows, some people get up and
dance. Bill timed our last performance with the meeting in Boston of the Heart
Rhythm Society, so a few musicians made cameos. We are always looking for more
Listen to The Dysrhythmics' play "Blinded by the Light" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fOhmjhNqxU and
Eric Clapton's "Layla" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlcPvk2zOIE.