Out of Office: Musical Accomplishments

By: Michael Karasis, MD | Posted on: 29 Jan 2021

“Music is the greatest of the arts. It is greater than any wisdom or philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Music has always been a great part of my life. I began studying the violin the very year I began my urology residency at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois (1976). I eventually joined 2 symphony orchestras in Northern Illinois about the time I began practice in Woodstock, Illinois (1980). Through the years my interest grew in composition and I studied orchestration, combining that with my experiences in orchestras, and so began composing my own works.

At this time my compositions include 11 symphonies, 4 violin concerti, a number of narrated works, several musical tone poems and full suites for orchestra. My largest works are 3 oratorios for full chorus, orchestra and narrators.

  1. “An American Civil War Memorial,” in 10 parts and narrated by the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois.
  2. “Government Issue,” a WWII anthology in 10 parts and narrated by the grandson of President Harry Truman, Mr. Clifton Truman Daniel.
  3. “Frankenstein,” describing the classic story by Mary Shelly.

About two-thirds of my works have been performed by various orchestras in Northern Illinois, Central Illinois and the Milwaukee area. Some of my works have been performed multiple times.

I have more recently written several shorter works and solo pieces for soprano and baritone voices. Once we are past the coronavirus pandemic, future performances of “Government Issue” and a work I call “Chicago Midnight” are planned to be performed.

As urologists and urology-connected providers we participate in a great and rewarding profession. I believe we should involve ourselves in other passions as well. I have spent much time investing in other interests with profound meaning to me personally. These include the visual arts and sculpture.

Since I very nearly decided to become a physicist before I undertook a medical career, I still continue ongoing studies in mathematics and the major branches of theoretical physics whenever I can. I think the important point to all of this is to continuously move forward in the pursuit of those things most meaningful and fulfilling to you.

Now back to music. I have found it most natural for me to write in the late romantic style, with some works in a more modern dress as well, such as “6 Minute Odyssey Through a Black Hole.” I especially enjoy recreating the classics into a musical form such as the adaptation of Plato's dialogue “Symposium,” Edgar Allen Poe's “The Raven” or Percy Shelly's “Ozymandias.”

I have indeed been fortunate to have had my works performed and have never taken it for granted. To have a composition performed requires a number of circumstances to mesh properly, such as a conductor willing to take the time to examine your score, money if needed to back up a performance, hiring good musicians for rehearsal time, meshing schedules, finding a good concert hall for performance as well as an audience willing to come and hear an unknown work. But when it happens it is pure magic!

Recently I have been in communication with a new conductor for the orchestra of Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, who wishes to review some of my works. The pursuit, yes, is always ongoing indeed!

My violin concerti have all been performed by some of my dearest musician friends from whom I have learned a great deal. I look forward to another performance of my concerto for violin and cello.

When writing music one gets lost in the work itself. No sense of time or place–just the work as it unfolds. I think that is what drives the artist on.

In conclusion, I am reminded of a story of the impatient Beethoven hovering over a piano student of his who was struggling with the technicalities of one of his compositions for piano when finally he stopped the laboring student from playing and proclaimed, “Damn the notes! Play the music!” I think that sums it all up. “Play the music!”

Do you know someone in urology who makes the most of their time Out of Office pursuing an unusual hobby, interest or talent? Please let us know if you or a colleague should be featured in this column. Contact publications@auanet.org for more information.