Eli Newberger: Music Maker, Medicine Man
But mainly, musical audiences are likely to find Eli Newberger in a jazz environment. Making music together with sympathetic jazz colleagues is very powerful, he avers. "And, it's not as simple as an experience of joy as opposed to sadness, or struggle. There is a great deal of discipline involved in playing jazz, and especially in playing traditional jazz," where there are very tight improvising rules, and where "a high premium is placed on original expression, within those rules."
In trad jazz,Newberger continues, there is a real priority given to one's emotional expression, and less concern about technical display.
Newberger offers an anecdote about how intertwined music and medicine are, for him. "I wish I had had today's clinical understanding and language back then in 1970, the same year that I organized the child protection team at Children's Hospital, and when Tommy Sancton, Tony Pringle and I formed the Black Eagle Jazz Band," he relates. "I was plunged into the trauma area; no one then appreciated what we now call the secondary trauma, on the caregivers, of their exposure to severely injured people, of the psychological impact they suffer. For me, in today's language, in retrospect I think that the music was not only therapeutic, but also enabled me to do the work in a particular and specific way."
One of the tasks resulting from trauma exposure is to be able to contend with the surges of emotion that the traumatic experience signifies, for both clinicians and victims. "The term of art today, in the trauma field, that for me was a personal task is what is called affect regulation, contending with the strong surges of emotion in response to trauma. Professionals must maintain a positive professional demeanor. For example, you have to avoid at all costsexpressing rage against someone who has committed horrible acts against a child, because that person typically is isolated, typically needs help. This is an extremely difficult task to accomplish for most professionals, who can unwittingly mete out punishment in the guise of help.
"As I look at it in retrospect, I think it was the music, more than any other artifact of my professional training, or colleagues, or the splendid professional environment that Children's Hospital made possible, I really do think that the music enabled me to give care in a way that I would otherwise not have been able to do."
So intertwined are his interests, in fact, that a discussion of the interconnections of his two careers appears in the book Doctors Afield (Yale University Press, 1999). "My life has been a constant balancing act, music sometimes serving as the counterweight to medicine, and sometimes the reverse," he says in "The Medicine of the Tuba," his essay in that book.
Medicine of the Tuba
Music transports Carolyn to a different place, in a different way, she says. From the perspective of a painter, "art is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's harder than graduate school and writing a dissertation. Harder than double-tonguing on piccolo. In art, you're always trying to bring order out of chaos. And you are creating the order."
A Girl and Her Horn by Carolyn Newberger
On the other hand, in music "there is a standard. Jazz is a little different, because it has its structure, but there is freedom on top of that structure, and you have to be able to exercise that freedom while still making sense within that structure. I work hard at my music, and hard at my art, so it's not all about transcendental or transformational experience. You have to really work hard to get to a point where sometimes that happens. And, sometimes that happens reliably."
That's when the transport occurs. She relates that she can pick up her flute or piccolo and play a Telemann Suite for Flute, "and totally be in another world. The music is so sublime. The music and I are seamless, and as Eli has said, the instrument disappears.