September 4, 2020

Student treasures musical outlet during pandemic as member of national orchestra

Ryan Snyder
Ryan Snyder

Ryan Snyder is not a medical student yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from blending his love of music with his pursuit of becoming a health care provider.

Snyder, a sophomore pre-medical student at Wayne State University with plans to graduate from WSU in 2023, is already a member of the Detroit Medical Orchestra, a musical ensemble of physicians, residents, and other health care workers associated with the WSU School of Medicine. He has also served as a musician ambassador for Pediatric Oncology patients at Beaumont Royal Oak through the DMO’s relationship with music therapist Holly Platis, and played violin for bone marrow transplant patients as a volunteer at Detroit Medical Center’s Harper University Hospital and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

“It is incredible the power that music holds as a mode for holistic healing, and I hope for a future where music therapists are integrated deeper into the patient care team,” he said.

Snyder is second violinist in the National Virtual Medical Orchestra’s online performance of “Academic Festival Overture” by Johannes Brahms.

The NVMO features 50 doctors, nurses, first responders and medical students from 15 cities in the United States. It was founded during the COVID-19 pandemic under the organization of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He joined the ensemble through his membership as a second violinist with the DMO when its season ended due to the pandemic.

Music Director John Masko reached out to the Detroit Medical Orchestra's board of directors and presented them with the opportunity for some DMO string players to join the National Virtual Medical Orchestra. “I jumped on the opportunity and haven't looked back since,” Snyder said.

Snyder believes that music can help with feelings of isolation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Music has always been a channel to deal with periods of great emotional and physical stress for me, and that persists to this day,” he said. “Being able to play an instrument that it so similar to the human voice is like unlocking new forms of language to express and cope with situations. Since our normal concert season with the DMO was canceled, that outlet largely disappeared for me in the form of weekly ensemble rehearsals at Scott Hall. With the creation of the NVMO, that platform was made available again to perform and dissipate the day-to-day anxious and isolated feelings that come with living during a pandemic.”

Snyder grew up in Livonia, Mich., and started playing violin in sixth grade.

“As with many of the musicians in our ensembles, there came a time for me where there was a great clash between the pursuit of medicine and becoming a musician. Luckily, with organizations such as the National Virtual Medical Orchestra and the Detroit Medical Orchestra, I have been blessed with opportunities to advance my musicianship at the same time as practicing core patient care skills that I will use as a future health care provider,” Snyder said.

He is majoring in Honors Biochemistry and Chemical Biology with a co-major in University Honors and a minor in Biomedical Physics. He has served as a pre-medical volunteer for Detroit’s Cass Clinic.

His advice for students starting a new educational journey during the pandemic is to take it easy.

“I would stress the importance of avoiding self-frustration if you struggle with your new educational pursuit. Specifically for musicianship, it takes several years to become proficient in an instrument,” he said. “To this day, I am still learning new things about violin performance, which is to say that many things such as becoming a physician are lifelong learning quests, and require balance and spaced practice to properly craft.”