When people hear the band playing rock tunes during the annual North Shore Cancer WALK in Salem, Mass., they can be in for a surprise. The musicians are physicians from North Shore Medical Center.
“The other hospital employees are stunned that these busy doctors would take the time to practice, get their songs together, come out and serenade all the walkers on the route,” says Sara Andrews, senior vice president for development at North Shore Medical Center in Salem. “They’ll stop and say, ‘Dr. Benedetto, I had no idea you were musical.’ It makes the walkers feel really special, like they’re important enough for the physicians to come out for them, and it has really created camaraderie, helping bridge the invisible divide between physicians and other hospital employees.”
The rock band — Code Blue — started in 2013, when Bernard Benedetto, M.D., a surgeon at North Shore, got together with Ron Hartfelder, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the hospital and David Rabin, M.D., a North Shore cardiologist, to figure out a way to indulge their passion for making music while also finding more motivation than simply playing local gigs. When they played at a hospital talent show, someone suggested they play at the cancer walk. Benedetto approached his guitar teacher, Frankie Price, and asked him to help him learn some songs for the event.
“It turns out Frankie is a cancer survivor, so when he found out it was a walk to benefit cancer, he said he would play with us,” says Benedetto. Price is a well-known professional musician who’s done studio work for some big-name stars. “So we put the band together and played at the WALK in 2013. We had a great time doing it and got a really good response, so we decided to keep it going,” Benedetto says.
In the past four years, the band has expanded and changed its tune a bit. Each year, the band has approached a local bar to host it for an after-party for a few hours after the WALK is done. And it plays other gigs but with a clear mission: All the gigs are fundraisers for people who are in need. For example, a nurse at North Shore was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and needed to get some equipment, so the band played a benefit for her.
How do busy physicians, often stretched thin for time, manage to find the motivation to practice and play? Benedetto says his wife, Jessica Benedetto, M.D., also a physician at North Shore, gets the credit for holding down the fort at home with their two children while he practices. “The real sacrifice comes from our spouses,” he says.
Plus, playing in the band is something they all really enjoy, so it’s not hard to find the time for practice. But having gigs constantly scheduled helps, too.
“It becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. “The more you play, the more people see you, realize you’re playing fundraisers, and ask you to play at theirs.” He says he wouldn’t change a thing. “It’s not a chore to get together. It’s a lot of fun.”
Pictured, from left to right: Frankie Price (guitar); Gary Amberik (keys); Matt Palazola (drums); Bernard Benedetto (guitar/vocals); George Groccia (bass); Lindsey Peabody (vocals); Anne Landry (vocals); Dara Fruchter (vocals); David Rabin (guitar).
Taken at the 2017 NSMC Cancer Walk