I became interested in music in elementary school, initially playing trumpet, but soon switched to saxophone. With much trepidation, my best friend and I used to sneak into his big brother's room to listen to Cannonball Adderley recordings - and look at Playboy. By junior high, I was playing gigs with my band teacher, Bill Orth, who greatly encouraged my pursuit of music, which I did through high school to the exclusion of all other classes. I went to Berklee as a summer student, which began my long association with Joe Viola, one of the greatest players and teachers anywhere. For college, I thought North Texas State would be the place and Leon Breeden invited me to attend a performance of the one o'clock band. While that band and players were great, as a Freshman I was placed in elementary classes with flashcards to learn key signatures, and improvisation instruction with a bassoon player. I left after one week and returned to Berklee, where I majored in performance, was in Herb Pomeroy's Recording Band (the Berklee equivalent of the N Texas one o'clock) and split my time between being a jazz tenor player, classical altoist, and both idioms on soprano. After graduating, I joined the Berklee faculty and, in addition to teaching, was a member of the Faculty Saxophone Quartet with Joe Viola, John LaPorta and Gary Anderson. Musically, that was an amazing experience, in terms of the level of musicianship and quality of the music, which included original works by local composers. However, before long I'd had enough of teaching and the thought of going on the road living on a bus wasn't appealing.
Somewhat serendipitously, a physician who knew me well mentioned one day whether I had considered medicine as a career. My response was "that sounds interesting". After testing the water and surviving a summer chemistry course at Harvard with no math or science background, I felt I could do the work and began two years of night school at Boston University. The decision to leave music wasn't without uncertainty and it was again my mentor, Joe Viola, who helped. Joe asked his friend Ken Wolf, a classical pianist and physician at Harvard, to talk to me. Ken came over to Berklee on a late afternoon and we spoke about how he decided on medicine vs music. After our conversation, I was convinced medicine was the right thing to do. Little did I know at the time that Ken had played a Liszt piano rhapsody at age 22 months, gave public performances by age 5, and composed a symphony by 8. He also graduated from Yale at 14. I left Boston in '72 to be a full-time pre-med student at the University of Kansas and subsequently was accepted to the KU School of Medicine.
After Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, I came to CU for a Hematology-Oncology Fellowship. In my 2nd year, I became involved in basic research in the lab of David Patterson, a biochemist who studied the genetics of Down syndrome, which included a predisposition to develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Janet Rowley, a pioneer in leukemia cytogenetics at the Univ of Chicago, gave a talk at CU one day describing recurrent chromosome rearrangements in different AML subtypes, one of which was the 8;21 translocation. This got my interest, but it was well before the days of the genome project and isolating genes at the sites of chromosome rearrangements, i.e., AML1-ETO, took years of "grunt work", which we excelled in. Along the way, Dr. Paul Bunn, who would later lead the effort to develop a NIH-funded Cancer Center at CU, hired me as an Asst. Professor in Oncology. My lab also carried out gene finding studies involving rearrangements of chromosome 3 in lung and kidney cancer, which led to my involvement in clinical trials and becoming an expert in the treatment of kidney cancer. I stayed at CU for 27 years, where I reached full professor with an endowed Chair. I was subsequently recruited to be Chief of Hematology-Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, where we stayed for 10 years before retiring and returning to Denver. This story wouldn't be complete without mentioning the better parts of my life - my wife Jane and our kids, Robert Aaron and Anne, along our grandkids Leyla, Ari and Neeva. Jane put her music therapy career on hold to raise the kids. Rob, after a biochemistry degree, became a very successful musician in Denver and pushed me to get back in music after putting my horns away for 30+ years. Anne, who went to medical school in Germany, is now a hospitalist at Denver Health and gave us the grandkids who know us as Granny and Grumpy.