by Carole Verona
Suzie Brown has it all. In addition to being a singer/songwriter, she is a practicing physician, wife, and mother of two. Accompanied by her husband Scot Sax on guitar and Phil D’Agostino on bass, Brown, described by Philadelphia Magazine as “bluesy, folksy, achy, rich” and “sweet-voiced,” will close out the Pastorius Park concert series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 26.
The free Pastorius Park series is produced by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and is sponsored by Chestnut Hill Hospital. Brown’s concert is sponsored by Condon and Skelly and presented by WXPN 88.5.
For those who have never seen or heard the award-winning musician, she characterizes her sound as “a country-folk, Americana style of music.” She said her husband brings a strong dash of pop and blues to the mix.
“It’s upbeat for sure,” she said.
“Sometimes Your Dreams Find You,” her current album, is all about love and family. “That’s what grounds me right now,” she said. “My life is so different from what I thought it would be. I’m so much happier than I thought I could ever be.”
Brown balances the multiple aspects of her life by working part-time – two weeks as a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and then two weeks off to devote to music.
Born in Montreal, Brown moved with her family to the Boston area when she was a child. Both of her parents were physicians, but they never put pressure on her to follow that path.
“They loved their jobs and that’s what made the field of medicine so appealing,” she said.
She grew up listening to and singing Pete Seeger songs with her parents. A Peter, Paul and Mary concert was the first one she ever attended.
“I took classical piano lessons as a kid – I did like it, but as I got older I was more into singing pop and less into playing classical,” she added.
Brown started writing music in 2008, when she was a graduate student at Penn.
“It was the first time in about a decade that I had any sort of free time,” she said. “I had just finished the bulk of my cardiology training. I was coming up for air and I found myself drawn more and more toward music. I was going to a lot of shows because I had my nights and weekends free and I was playing more guitar.”
A friend encouraged her to start writing songs but she was afraid she would write something bad.
“Everybody writes bad songs,” her friend said. “You just don’t play those.”
Brown added: “I’m such a perfectionist in the other part of my life that I was paralyzed by a fear of not doing it well. My friend sort of gave me permission to do it badly if that’s what’s came out!
“So I wrote my first song and played it at an open mic night at Fergie’s. I didn’t tell anyone I knew that I was doing it. I was shaking like a leaf but it was totally addictive. I kept writing more and more songs and going back to Fergie’s. Then I got the guts up to play some real shows. It all just happened pretty fast.”
Brown had developed friendships with many local Philly musicians, and she started opening shows for them. Then, Ross Bellenoit, one of her friends, encouraged her to record an EP, “Side Streets,” which he also produced and played on.
Brown met her husband Scot in the studio when she was making her “Heartstrings” album. The date was Oct. 9 (John Lennon’s birthday), 2010. They saw each other again the next day at Phil D’Agostino’s wedding and they married a year later. The couple now lives in Nashville with their two daughters, Josephine, 3, and Chloe, 1½.
In addition to her rich musical career, Brown is a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“I take care of patients with advanced heart failure who are out of medical options,” she explained. “I evaluate them for heart transplants and take care of them before and after transplantation.”
Brown received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Dartmouth College and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She completed a residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She received a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was also a cardiology fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. She later worked at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia as a cardiologist and co-director of the Advanced Heart Failure Unit.
She is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, adult comprehensive echocardiology, nuclear cardiology, and advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology.
Speaking from her own personal experience, Brown said, “Music has been healing for me because it allows me to be emotional and to be honest about my feelings. For me, I didn’t have that kind of outlet because I was at the hospital all the time. There’s not a lot of room for your own feelings when you’re a doctor.
“I think emotionally I’m a lot healthier because I have a way to replenish the tank. Before, I was emotionally drained all the time. So I think I have more to give to my patients. I want to be the best doctor I can possibly be.
“I have learned to accept a certain amount of chaos, that there are always things I haven’t done, that there are always things on my to-do list. I just prioritize what is most important at the time and let the rest go. And my kitchen is never clean
Speaking of the medical side of her career, Brown said her job at Vanderbilt in Nashville is her dream job.
And from the musical point of view, “Nashville is a writing town,” she added, “so it’s a great place to be if you’re not going to tour and you still want to be active as an artist.”
For more information about Suzie Brown and to listen to her music, go to http://www.suziebrownsongs.com.
Pastorius Park is two blocks west of Germantown Avenue at the corner of Millman Street and Hartwell Lane. Rain venue is the lower auditorium at SCHA Cherokee Campus. More information about the concert series is at www.chestnuthill.org or call 215-248-8810.