The Medical Musician Initiative


The Medical Musician Initiative, founded in 2016 and incorporated in 2018, was created to conduct educational workshops in medical music, present discussions related to the work of medical musicians, and connect hospital patients and their families to the work of medical musicians.

The founding partnership of the Medical Musician Initiative began early on the morning of Friday, July 17, 2009 when Dr. Marvin McMillen, at the time the Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, arrived to start his shift. He was told that a patient, Andrew Schulman, had arrived the night before in cardiac arrest after major surgery, a “Code Blue”, clinically dead. Schulman had been resuscitated and then put into a medically induced coma. McMillen spent most of that day at Schulman’s bedside and was instrumental in keeping him alive.

The founding event of the Medical Musician specialty happened several days later. The patient was still desperately ill and in a downward spiral. Andrew’s wife, Wendy, who’d been at his bedside during virtually her every waking moment, knew that he was now close to death. Looking for her cell phone, she saw his iPod. She had an epiphany. Turning to the attending physician on duty, she said, “He loves music more than anything. I have his iPod. I think only music can reach through to his soul and give him the will to live. Can I play music for him?” Dr. Simon Eiref, the attending physician on duty, said yes, and the earbuds went in. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Andrew’s favorite music, traveled through the earbuds and entered Andrew’s auditory cortex, producing chemicals in his brain that flowed through his body that in essence carried this message: “It’s not time to shut down yet”. Witnessed by Wendy and the medical team, and with the evidence recorded in his medical chart, the music saved his life by stabilizing him and reversing the metabolic process that was killing him. For years afterward the unit nurses called it "The St. Matthew Miracle".

Six months later, when he was fully recovered, McMillen gave Schulman, 57-years old at the time and a professional guitarist in New York City for thirty five years, permission to fulfill a request he’d made after coming out of the coma -- that he be able to give thanks by returning to that same Surgical ICU with his guitar to play for critically ill patients. From that beginning in January 2010, Schulman and McMillen saw the possibilities and began the collaboration that would eventually lead to establishing the Medical Musician specialty as they define it: a professional concert level musician with pertinent training in critical care medicine who is a member of the medical team in a critical care unit. 

McMillen and Schulman are now in their eighth year of partnership in this endeavor.  Their story, and the story of the age-old healing profession called Music & Medicine, is told in Schulman’s book, “Waking The Spirit: A Musician’s Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul” (Macmillan/Picador, 2016) with an Afterword written by Dr. McMillen. 

Click on the photos for content information.

The Executive Board and Advisors

Andrew Schulman

Andrew Schulman - Executive Director and President of the Board


Six months after his life was saved by music when he was in a coma in July 2009 Andrew Schulman, a professional guitarist, became a volunteer musician at the invitation of Dr. Marvin McMillen in the same Surgical ICU where he was a patient. He has since co-founded a new specialty, Medical Musician, with Dr. McMillen. In January 2016 he began a monthly residency at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA - the first hospital to accept the title, Medical Musician. In August 2017 he received the first certification for Medical Musician, given by Dr. Mark Pettus, BMC Medical Education Director and Associate Dean at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and in September 2017 was admitted as the first Certified Medical Musician to become a member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Andrew and his wife Wendy Sayvetz are the subjects of the documentary film Andrew & Wendy (2014) that has been screened in international film festivals and aired multiple times on PBS-TV. He is the author of Waking The Spirit: A Musician’s Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul (Macmillan:Picador, 2016), chosen by the Oliver Sacks Foundation as a Book of the Year in 2016 - it was also a People Magazine “Best Pick” in non-fiction and a Finalist in the 2017 Books for A Better Life Awards.

Suzanne Schwartz, Treasurer

Suzanne Schwartz - Treasurer

 Suzanne comes to MMI through the influence of her late husband, Robert Crim, a classical guitarist and lutenist who was a dear friend of Andrew Schulman.  Reading Andrew’s journal, and then his book, about his work as a musician in the Beth Israel Medical Center Surgical ICU convinced her that music in critical care medicine was of great value to the well being of patients, family members, and the medical staff. A lawyer by training, she retired from the Federal government after 30 years with the Environmental Protection Agency, helping to protect our nation’s waters, including wetlands, coastal waters, and oceans.  While working she volunteered as a literacy tutor and a mentor for junior staff.  After retirement, Suzanne joined the Board of, and volunteers with, the Sarcoma Alliance, She is also a member of a local charitable organization that supports local schools, students, food banks, and other causes.  Through this organization Suzanne assists a kindergarten class with reading, under a program she co-directs.  In her spare time she enjoys going to concerts, spending time with family and friends, and hanging out on the Delaware coast with her German Shepherd Dog, Leica.  

Eric Despard - Secretary


Guitarist Eric Despard became interested in the power of music in medicine when he was able to help family and friends get through serious illness with music. He received his medical musician training from MMI founders, Dr. Marvin McMillen and Andrew Schulman. Eric received certification for attending a 50-hour “Medicine for Musicians” workshop at BMC July 2017 and then began working as a Medical Musician intern at BMC. Despard is the Executive Director of the Laumeister Art Center in Vermont. He is also Assistant Professor of Humanities and the Music and Art Director at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont where he recently developed a Bachelor of Arts Major in Arts Administration. A concert classical and jazz guitarist as well as composer, Eric performs regularly throughout the U.S. as a soloist and with his new music group, the Progression Ensemble. He holds a graduate degree from the Yale School of Music and an undergraduate degree from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.   

Dr. Marvin A. McMillen, M.D., FACS, MACP - Chief Medical Adviser


Marvin A. McMillen, is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Roswell Park Memorial Cancer Institute.  He trained in Internal Medicine, General Surgery and Surgical Critical Care at SUNY Buffalo, the University of Minnesota and Yale.  Dr. McMillen has practiced emergency surgery, trauma and both medical and surgical critical care for 35 years in Brooklyn, Yale, Chicago, Manhattan and the Berkshires.   His basic science research and 100 publications/chapters have included bone marrow stem cells, drug effects on the brain in critical illness, mechanisms of immunosuppression, gut and brain hormone effect on immune cells, blood vessel interactions with immune and inflammatory cells in shock and sepsis, and angiogenesis.  Dr. McMillen is currently Chief of Perioperative Care at Berkshire Medical Center and Professor of Surgery at the University of Massachusetts.  He first became interested in the bedside use of recorded music, music videos, music therapy, and medically trained musicians after learning about the London based Live Music Now initiative, created by Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker, and he has been actively working with music in medicine for over twenty years.

We will be adding a Board of Advisers in the near future!

A Film and a Video

Click on the link to see the thiry-minute film "Andrew & Wendy"

See the three-minute video below, from WNBC-TV  News - Soothing Sounds in the  SICU: Winner of a NY Emmy and 1st Prize  in the NPPA (National Press Photographers Association’s) "Best in  PhotoJournalism” series

Soothing Sounds in the SICU


The story about how the idea of establishing the Medical Musician specialty happened is told in Andrew Schulman's book, Waking The Spirit: A Musician's Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul (Macmillan:Picador, 2016). Click on the link for more information about the book.


If you are interested in learning more about the MMI send us an email and we will get back to you ASAP.

Medical Musician Initiative

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