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Medical Maestro

By Julie Butters & Lara Ehrlich

Banner image: Aram V. Chobanian (Hon.’06) (right), BU president emeritus and School of Medicine dean emeritus, has written songs, a sonata, a string quartet, and an opera. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Aram V. Chobanian (Hon.’06), BU president emeritus and School of Medicine dean emeritus, has loved classical music since childhood, when he listened to opera and symphony performances on the radio. He attended the symphony while in medical school for cardiology and later taught himself to play the piano, occasionally writing songs for his childrens birthdays and graduations.

Chobanian planned to enroll in CFA upon completing his term as dean of the BU School of Medicine—but he became the University’s president instead. Far from giving up on music, he studied music theory with then-graduate student Matt Van Brink (’02,’05) and soon gained enough confidence to write and perform songs for BU students at the first graduation breakfast over which he presided.

“I’ve spent my life as a physician-scientist with involvement in research and exploring new ideas,” he says. “That may be one of the reasons I have gone into music. I have no idea what it’s all about, and then I try and figure it out. Medicine and music are quite intensive types of activities.”

Chobanian went on to take lessons with Justin D. Casinghino (’09), a CFA lecturer in music, composition, and theory, with whom he has explored different genres; he’s written songs, a sonata, a string quartet, and an opera titled Tom, based on Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones. In December 2016, CFA students and alums recorded Tom on a CD for Chobanian’s edification and personal enjoyment. The experience of hearing his music performed was “extraordinary,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it.” He is now working on a musical.