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NYO-USA: From Double Bass to Stethoscope

Joshua D. Miller, MD, MPH, will be joining the National Youth Orchestra of theUnited States of America this summer as our tour doctor. We asked him to reflect on how his experiences in youth orchestra shaped his life.

I am deeply honored to be the physician for the inaugural tour of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. When first invited to serve as the traveling doctor for 120 of our nation’s most talented young musicians, memories of my own experiences as a young musician immediately came to mind.

As a double bassist growing up in New York State, I participated in numerous local, state, and national youth orchestras. Many of the ensembles with which I performed allowed me the opportunity to foster lifelong relationships with musicians and friends from diverse cultures and backgrounds. I vividly recall summer rehearsals in Saratoga Springs with the New York State Summer School for the Arts School of Orchestral Studies. The friendships I made during rigorous rehearsals in a hot and humid middle school gymnasium are still thriving today, many years later.

While I ultimately made the decision to pursue medicine as a career, music continues to play a large role in my personal and professional life. After graduating from The Juilliard School’s pre-college division, I matriculated to the University of Rochester. There, as a member of the college’s chamber orchestra, I met the love of my life, my wife Ellen, a flutist and pianist. Were it not for music, I’m not quite certain our paths would have crossed. Looking back, it’s amazing how each of our life experiences overlapped musically. She, too, performed in many youth orchestras prior to college, and it was this common background that helped our relationship thrive.

Now, years later as a practicing physician, I am left with a profound sense of appreciation for the influence music has had on my life. My early experiences in youth ensembles continue to inform my medical career in countless ways. Hours spent studying with friends in the medical school anatomy lab were so very similar to time spent in sectionals with other young bassists in Saratoga. It’s remarkable how the feelings evoked from receiving my very first stethoscope in medical school felt so similar to when I received my first double bass as a teenager. Eyes closed, ears poised, I use my stethoscope as a window to the hearts and souls of my patients; Eyes opened, ears trained, I use my double bass as an instrument of expression and communication with fellow musicians and audience members.

I consider it a tremendous privilege to be able to join the young members of NYO-USA on their musical journey. I am quite certain that the relationships they make through this shared experience and love of music will be life-long. I am also confident that the lessons they learn along the way will stay with them for many, many years to come.


Joshua D. Miller, MD, MPH is board-certified in internal medicine and is currently a fellow in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at Columbia University Medical Center / New York Presbyterian Hospital. He has been performing on the double bass since age 8 and is currently a member of the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble.

061113 Josh Miller blog
Joshua Miller performs as part of the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra in 2005.


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