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David Geffen School of Medicine

A Late-in-Life Gift of Song

  Dr. Gerald S. Linder and Judith Schwab

Dr. Gerald S. Linder (left) and Judith Schwab sing a duet at a karaoke performance.
Photo: Valerie Walker

While serving in the United States Navy, Gerald S. Linder, MD ’61 (RES ’64), completed two years of undergraduate studies. He came to UCLA in 1956 to complete his undergraduate degree, and he remained at UCLA until 1997. After graduating from medical school, he completed his residency in anesthesia and then served as associate clinical professor from 1966 to 1997. Now retired, Dr. Linder lives in Weston, Florida. He served as chair for the 50th reunion of the medical school’s Class of 1961 and for the 55th class reunion. He recounts an unusual late-in-life experience.

There are those who have the good fortune to be able to sing well from a very young age. Others are not so lucky and cannot sing at all throughout their lives. Amazingly, a few of them receive the gift of being able to sing well through an accident that affects their hearing. Such a gift is precious to them, a miracle to be fully enjoyed and shared with others.

The ability to sing well came to me late in my life following a shooting accident, and it has enriched my life beyond my expectations. While in the Navy, I was a member of a .45-caliber match-tournament team, and I continued to shoot firearms in civilian life. While shooting in an indoor range, a customized acrylic ear protector I was wearing warped and failed. As a result, I lost some of my high-frequency hearing and had tinnitus and pain in my right ear. Four years later, I awoke one morning to find that all my symptoms had disappeared.



"Lady of Spain"

Listen to Dr. Linder now.



As if that weren’t surprise enough, not long afterward, I got another. I have eight grandchildren, and I frequently got to babysit for them. They always wanted me to sing lullabies and songs to them, but I was not at all good at doing that. Then, after I recovered from my hearing loss, I discovered that my singing had greatly improved when I sang to them. This was confirmed when I took an online tone test designed by a Harvard psychiatrist who also was a musician. Not only had my singing gotten better, but I scored in the upper range of tone acuity, along with composers, musicians and professional singers. Oliver Sacks wrote about this kind of phenomena in his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.

From then on, I expanded my singing activities. Since I retired almost six years ago and moved to Florida, I have found joy in participating in choral groups that perform in many assisted-care facilities. Karaoke establishments are my favorite venues for singing solos and duets. I can simulate almost any singer except “Satchmo,” Louis Armstrong. People call me Dr. J for Al Jolson because I can emulate him so well.

In July 2015, I met Judith Schwab, my soulmate who now is my significant other, while performing karaoke. Judith was with me when I attended my 55th class reunion this April. We sing to each other all through the day and night. We sing duets together at karaoke, as well as solos. I also sing in a professional follies production, which has a new theme each year. This year, it was “Around the World in 80 Songs,” adapted from Around the World in 80 Days. I sang solos in each act — “Lady of Spain” and “On the Road to Mandalay.”



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