Corpus Medicorum: Medicine and Music

Musical skill is a familiar theme among medical students and health professionals. For some, their focus on music dwindles when the demands of university study, clinical placements and vocations take over. But for members of Corpus Medicorum, an orchestra comprised of practitioners, professionals and students of healthcare, music continues to resonate.

Corpus Medicorum

Conductor and Musical Director Associate Professor Keith Crellin OAM conducting Corpus Medicorum in rehearsal at Melbourne Recital Centre

Corpus Medicorum, meaning body of doctors, was founded by Melbourne Medical School alum Mr Phillip Antippa (MBBS 1991) in 2002 and is considered one of the best amateur orchestras in Australia. Members currently include at least 30 alumni of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, with further members who are students of Melbourne Medical School or alumni of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and Melbourne Law School. The whole orchestra enlists approximately 90 medico/musicians, some of whom are also part of the Australian Doctors Orchestra.

Mr Antippa is Head of Thoracic Surgery Services and Director of Lung Cancer Services at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and is currently completing a Master of Public Health at the University of Melbourne. He is also Director and principal violist of Corpus Medicorum. Having studied viola seriously in high school, Mr Antippa considered pursuing music as a profession. He ultimately chose to focus on medicine, but never let his music go.

“Many medical students have spent their primary and secondary schooling studying an instrument. To let that go entirely is often regretted later on. Corpus Medicorum offers an outlet to keep a young cohort of musician doctors going,” he says.

The orchestra was established to encourage medicos to maintain their musical talents and give them an opportunity to perform. For current medical students and recent graduates completing their clinical training, it is also a chance to network with established specialists and practitioners, who make up the more senior ranks of the group.

Corpus Medicorum performs a regular cycle of three concerts per year at the Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC). For many performances, they engage local soloists, often sourced from members of faculty at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. The orchestra has toured internationally three times on behalf of City of Melbourne, however, a trip planned for China in 2020 was cancelled due to the global pandemic, as were the first two of three MRC concerts this year. While international tours might be off the table for the foreseeable future, the orchestra hopes to get back to their regular schedule as soon as possible.

“The orchestral environment is unique,” says Mr Antippa. “It requires discipline, motivation and team spirit.” In his opinion, instrumental qualifications or orchestral experience on a young doctor’s CV show “this person has commitment, determination, diligence and great time management”.

It may be hard to imagine busy doctors turning up to rehearsals, but Mr Antippa is convinced you can make time when you want to. He says Corpus Medicorum “offers a diverse experience for medicos with a sense of achievement beyond that of daily work or study”.

Corpus Medicorum profits are donated to lung cancer services and research at Royal Melbourne Hospital. The orchestra has raised over $750,000 to help patients with lung cancer.

Corpus Medicorum's next concert is on 11 July 2021 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

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Written by Cecilia Dowling.