It’s been more than a year since the Children’s Discovery Museum closed its doors, just weeks before it was set to hold its 16th annual Doctors in Concert benefit.
Now with a potential reopening date on the horizon, the “physician musicians” are gearing up for an encore virtual performance at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 17. But Executive Director Beth Whisman said even after the return of in-person events, the concert will still include an online experience.
That’s because the museum’s first crack at a virtual Doctors in Concert in September was also its most successful: “We raised more money last year than we’ve ever raised before from this event,” said Whisman.
It turned out taking the event online wasn’t that hard. “We have very talented musicians, they practice all year for this event, they really wanted to do it,” Whisman said. “So once we set up the technology to capture performances, that part was actually pretty easy.”
The new format also meant a lot of the barriers to attending an in-person performance no longer applied.
“We heard from a lot of museum families in the past they’ve never been able to attend the event because of babysitting issues, or their kids wouldn’t sit through a concert in a fancy setting,” said Whisman. But in 2020, she said, “they just had the concert on in the background while the kids were playing, and they just had a family night together.”
A lifelong pianist, Dr. Susan Sheppard has performed at every single Doctors in Concert, and her granddaughter has attended them all, too. Sheppard and her granddaughter recorded a cello-piano duet for last year’s performance. And while this year her granddaughter is a freshman at a Canadian university, she’ll still be able to watch Sheppard play.
Sheppard said she’ll be performing two pieces on April 17, including Ivan Sings by Russian composer Aram Khachaturian. The second piece will be a surprise.
“If people want to know, they have to tune in,” she said.
Whisman said that’s not uncommon at Doctors in Concert.
“Every once in a while a doctor will surprise us,” she said. “The doctors will practice something and not tell us and perform a song, a dance, a comedy routine, you never really know exactly what you’re going to get from a few of the doctors who’ve been performing with us for a long time.”
Whisman does know there’ll be a Spanish guitar, jazz violin, and vocal performance in the mix.
The event also includes a silent auction; online bidding opens April 9.
The money raised last year helped fund the new Healthy Me! exhibit that is ready to go for the museum’s tentative reopening in May.
This year, proceeds from the concert will help launch Prescription for Play, a pilot program to expand access to the museum for kids and families who can benefit from the power of play.
Whisman said the pandemic highlighted the importance of physical play and what happens when kids don’t get enough activity.
“We had a lot of kids that had plenty of access to screens and video games and computers during the COVID period, and we know that wasn’t enough, that actually has a consequence,” she said.
Through the program, participating pediatricians will screen patients to identify any red flags in kids’ physical, mental and emotional development that could be addressed through more play.
“So the doctor can give a literal prescription, write it out, and what it basically entails is free access for that entire family to come to the Children’s Discovery Museum and play together,” said Whisman.
Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for Doctors in Concert are available through the Children’s Discovery Museum website.
There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.