World Doctors Orchestra
This article needs to be updated.(November 2017)
The World Doctors Orchestra (WDO) is an orchestra made up entirely of physicians. It was established as a non-profit organization in 2007 by Prof. Stefan Willich at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany with the purpose of combining music with global medical responsibility. The members are physicians representing almost 50 countries worldwide, many of them with a professional musical background. The WDO performs usually two to three times a year in various venues and countries around the world donating the concert proceeds to medical aid organizations.
The World Doctors Orchestra (WDO) combines the pleasure of great music with charity. Two to three times a year, a selection from a group of over 800 physicians, from almost 50 nations exchange their white coats for evening attire and perform a benefit concert for those in need of healthcare. Although all of the doctors share a passion for music, this is not an end in itself. Indeed, the driving force behind the WDO is the conviction that neither national borders nor political or economic interests should limit access to adequate healthcare. With its series of benefit concerts, the WDO wants to raise global awareness that healthcare is a basic human right and a precondition for human development. The WDO is an independent non-profit organization driven by the spirit and dedication of its members and supported by private and institutional sponsors. Since 2013, cultural manager and singer Alexandra Gruber is the orchestra’s Executive Director.
Founder and conductor of the World Doctors Orchestra is Stefan Willich, director of the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin and former president of the Berlin Academy of Music Hanns Eisler. Willich, who studied violin, chamber music, and conducting in Stuttgart, Berlin, Boston/Tanglewood and Paris, chooses his fellow musicians for the different concert sessions from the rich pool of members.
The WDO currently includes a pool of 820 physicians (44% women and 56% men) from 46 countries. They are all medical professionals and, at the same time, are enthusiastic and active musicians, many of them with a professional musical background. About 100 members participate in each concert, depending on the availability of the members and the instruments needed for each concert. All important instruments are represented. About one third of the members are professional musicians, the others are excellent amateur musicians who engage in regular musical activity as well as practicing medicine. About 15% of the members play in professional orchestras in their free time, whereas others play regularly in non-professional orchestras and chamber music ensembles. A great variety of medical specialties are represented. Pediatricians, internists and general practitioners take the lead, and there is a wide variety of specialization in diagnostic and therapeutic areas, as well as in pharmacology.
Concerts and charity
Before each concert, the WDO comes together for intensive rehearsals lasting several days, usually followed by a pre-concert for patients and co-workers in hospitals or similar institutions and the benefit concert for the public. To date, fourteen concert sessions have been held or are scheduled, further concerts are planned in Dresden/Berlin, Seattle/Vancouver, Barbados, Romania, Thailand, San Francisco, New York/Boston, Barcelona, Munich, St. Petersburg, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Paris, Switzerland, Italy, Israel and Australia.
The inaugural concert took place on May 4, 2008 in the Berliner Philharmonie, Germany, with Boston-based violinist Peter Zazofsky as soloist. The proceeds from this concert were donated to the Hugo Tempelman Foundation and Hilfswerk Indien e.V. 2nd concert on February 8, 2009 in Severance Hall, Cleveland, USA with soloists Annie Fullard, violin, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, cello, and Sergei Barbayan, piano. The proceeds went to the Hugo Tempelman Foundation and the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland. 3rd concert on July 4, 2009 in the Philharmonie Berlin, Germany, with soloists Tanja Becker-Bender, violin, and Aida-Carmen Soanea, viola. The proceeds went to the Hugo Tempelman Foundation and the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims. 4th concert on January 17, 2010 in the Aram Khachaturian Hall, Yerevan, Armenia. Soloist was Sergej Khachatryan. The proceeds were donated to Prkutyun, the Centre of Disabled Children and Young People in Yerevan . 5th concert on October 11, 2010 in the Konzerthaus Berlin, Germany as gala evening of the 2nd World Health Summit. The orchestra was joined by the Philharmonischer Chor Berlin with Artistic Director Jörg-Peter Weigle and soloists Anja Kampe, Soprano, Julia Rutigliano, Alto, Endrick Wottrich, Tenor, and Falk Struckmann, Bass. 6th concert on November 14, 2010 in the National Concert Hall, Taipeh, Taiwan. The concert was supporting the Formosa Cancer Foundation. 7th concert on September 11, 2011 at The Music Center at Strathmore, Bethesda, USA, with soloists Tamaki Kawakubo, Violin; Jeanine De Bique, soprano; Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano and the National Philharmonic Chorale with Artistic Director Stan Engebretson. The proceeds went to Whitman Walker Health in Washington. 8th concert on December 4, 2011 at Beijing National Grand Theater, China and on December 5, 2011 at Concert Hall of Shanghai Oriental Arts Theater, China with soloist Xiang Zou, piano. The 9th concert session led the World Doctors Orchestra to South Africa. The concerts were on February 9, 2012 at Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town, on February 11, 2012 at the Miracle, Elandsdoorn, and February 12, 2012 at the Linder Auditorium, Johannesburg, in co-operation with the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival with soloist Maria du Toit, clarinet and the Ndlovu Youth Choir (director Ralf Schmitt). 10th concert on October 14, 2012 at the Philharmonie Berlin and on October 15, 2012, at the Philharmonie Essen with soloist Wenzel Fuchs, clarinet. The concert session was supporting the Hugo Tempelman Foundation, Medica Mondiale e.V., and An Ambulance Boat For Bolenge. In June 2013, the orchestra had its Austria premiere with a concert at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna together with the Vienna Boys Choir. The proceeds were dedicated to the maintenance of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and to the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna. The 12th concert session took the WDO on September 17, 2013 to Beethovenhalle Bonn, Germany, on invitation of the Beethovenfest Bonn, and on September 18 to the Philharmonie Berlin, Germany, with countertenor Jochen Kowalski and jazz singer Donna Brown. The proceeds were donated to Dentists for Africa, the Friends of the German Heart Centre, and to the Parent Support Group for Children and Adolescents with Cancer Bonn. In March 2014, WDO played two concerts in Japan in memory of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The concerts were on March 21 at Alios Hall, Iwaki City and on March 23 at the Metropolitan Theater in Tokyo. The 14th concert session will take the WDO to Chile in November 2014 for concerts together with the Chilean pianist Gonzalo Paredes in Valparaíso and Santiago de Chile. The proceeds of the concerts were to be used to support two youth orchestras, one in Panguipulli and one in an area that was particularly affected by the earthquake and tsunami of February 27, 2010.