Beyond The Lab Coat: The Opera Singer - SBH Health System
Image of Dr. Joel Sender, MD, singing opera

The lab coat or scrubs they wear do not define who they are.

Many SBH physicians have special passions, talents, and accomplishments that exist outside the hospital. As you’ll read here, these extracurricular interests are as wide ranging and diverse as the hospital itself.

The Opera Singer

As a young child, Dr. Joel Sender, division director, Geriatrics and former medical director of the St. Barnabas Rehabilitation & Continuing Care Center, took singing and piano lessons. He performed in plays and concerts at school and in synagogue. His musical interests were eclectic, ranging from Broadway show tunes to classical music.

As a teenager, he considered attending a music and arts high school, but his parents – “while sympathetic to my love of music were practical people from the old world” – steered him towards a more stable career.

Later, as a medical student, he often studied and fell asleep listening to records by Jussi Bjorling, one of the great tenors of the 20th century. Anyone looking for him on weekends at Albany Medical College merely had to follow the music – he played the piano for hours at a time in the school’s lobby.

That spark, lit as a child, ignited when, at the age of 43, he was given the opportunity to audition for Richard Cross. A bass-baritone who has performed at leading opera houses around the world for over 40 years, Cross has long been a highly sought after opera coach who teaches Bel Canto – the Italian vocal technique and style of the 18th and early 19th centuries, emphasizing the beauty of sound, and literally meaning in Italian “beautiful singing” – to students with professional aspirations in such places as the Yale School of Music and the Julliard School. Taking on a student like Dr. Sender, one with a rather serious day job, was certainly not typical.

“After I finished auditioning for Richard, he said ‘Let’s do it.’”

 

That was 22 years ago. To further enhance his singing technique, Dr. Sender later added a second coach (a voice teacher to go with a vocal coach), his dear friend Beverly Myers.

 

“It’s been a great education and I can sing some arias, but it’s been about more than just singing better,” he says. “It’s about learning to respect the music and being able to interpret it. My appreciation and pleasure have only grown over time.”

 


Steve Clark