They each try to squeeze music into their medical school schedules, but the roots of their involvement in bluegrass were planted long before they dreamed of becoming doctors.
A Stuart, Florida native, McCord, 25, learned to play the guitar at age 10 and picked up the banjo four years later. He finds inspiration in Earl Scruggs, a pioneer of bluegrass music who popularized the three-finger picking method, or the “Scruggs style” of banjo playing, and the Lonesome River Band, a modern bluegrass group.
For Swanson, 26, playing music was always a family affair. Growing up in Crystal River, Florida, he took piano lessons, played drums and percussion in a band and picked up a mandolin habit from his brother. His father bought resonator guitars and took him to a bluegrass festival in middle school, and from there they began to attend bluegrass camps and formed the Swanson Family Band.
“Something about (bluegrass music) draws you in if you spend some time around it,” he said. “I think what I like most is that it’s natural. It’s just raw talent and there’s no microphone with reverb or effects to hide anything. It makes it really a pure music — it’s like an experience.”
During his second year of medical school in 2005, Matthew Willey, MD ’08, saw a need for funds to support international medical outreach trips. As a musician who already played paid gigs around town, he decided to mix his love of music and medicine to create Medstock.
After 10 years of future physicians rocking out for a cause, the student-run event has raised nearly $18,000 and entertained patrons at local bars in downtown Gainesville, including Loosey’s and former venue Rum Runners.
The fundraiser is typically organized by second-year UF medical students and takes place in February.
“I feel like we’ve been able to leave a mark,” said Willey, now a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Orlando Orthopaedic Center. “I’m thrilled that Medstock continues.”