Winter 2017

Music Man

Meet the doctor to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

By Bruce Morgan

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Robert Partridge. Photo: John Soares

Robert Partridge, A84, M89, played piano for five or six years as a boy, but he let that commitment slide. These days, the soft-spoken doc admits he switches between rock and classical music when he’s tooling around in his car. But he has found a sideline job that brings him on a periodic basis into the world of massed strings and melody.

Partridge has been the official tour physician for the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 2013, and has traveled abroad three times—once to Asia and twice to Europe—with the entourage.

Luckily, he knows lots about keeping people fit as fiddles. With his background in emergency medicine—he’s on staff in the emergency department of Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, and also teaches the subject at Brown Medical School—he’s the perfect resource for a mobile village of about 200 people, counting musicians, orchestra staff and family members. Common complaints on tour are headaches, colds and viruses, GI issues and, among the musicians, finger wounds caused by calluses that frequently crack open. The doctor carries skin glue with him at all times to repair those fingers; the substance works better than any bandage, he says.

In contrast to his regular employment at Emerson, where the patients tend to be sicker, but the support staff runs a mile deep, Partridge is a pure solo practitioner whenever he packs his bag of remedies and heads out on a musical tour. “When I’m with the orchestra, it’s just me,” he observes in his utterly calm and soothing voice, a voice you are likely to hold dear if you ever happen to fall sick while unpacking your music in Vienna or Berlin. “It’s a different kind of challenge, which I enjoy.”

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