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A Piece of My Mind
May 1, 2002

The Music I Want to Hear

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(17):2186. doi:10.1001/jama.287.17.2186

Twenty-two years ago, my brother James died suddenly, at the age of 26, of an apparent cardiac arrhythmia while playing basketball. Although his death has continued to leave a profound void for our entire family, my brother gave me an invaluable gift before departing.

Jimmy was a professional jazz pianist, performing in many Philadelphia jazz clubs. But his real love was composition, and at the time of his death, he had created more than 60 pieces. His career path had not gone according to the family "plan," where there is a strong expectation to pursue a professional education and career, preferably in medicine. But Jimmy was someone who set his own goals and followed the direction of his heart. I remember the night he decided to become a musician. We went to hear Rudolf Serkin play a Brahms piano concerto. The performance was so sublime that, at Jimmy's insistence, we left at intermission because he didn't want his memory of the music to be diluted by the remainder of the concert.

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