It’s no secret – medical school is an extremely busy, stressful time for students. A massive amount of data, concepts, and objectives are learned, examined, and evaluated in just four years. Nationally, student stress is on the rise, and schools are seeking ways to improve the well-being of their frazzled learners.
Some students turn to exercise or take advantage of pet therapy and meditation offerings. Others turn to family and friends. Rising fourth-year student El Arrey, married father of three, turns to music.
“Music is the only thing that keeps me sane,” he said with a smile.
In the midst of his ob/gyn elective, Arrey has birthed a music project – a 20-song album, his first full album, “The Essentials.”
Arrey’s music interest started out as a deejay, and then in 2011, “I asked myself if I could make something of my own – and a year later something that sounded good came out – right after I took the MCAT.”
Initially recruited to a small record label through Soundcloud, Arrey has been creating music ever since and continues to do so for four different music groups.
But don’t ask Arrey to describe his music.
“We had a hard time picking what genre to list the overall album under,” Arrey said. “We love the diversity of the tracks in the project as it symbolizes the diverse influences we have had in our lives and the different cultures that have influenced us. Our goal is that everyone can find something that they can relate to when they play this album.”
With no formal music training, Arrey composes every instrument by ear via computer software.
“The computer translates it into a music note, then I print out the score to hand to a musician to see if it can be played. The computer software I use has 88 notes for all instruments, but not all instruments have that many,” he explained, adding that one of his goals is to learn to read music.
Born in Cameroon, West Africa, Arrey came to the United States in 2004 and graduated from UT Arlington.
With three young boys, ages 4, 3, and 2, and a busy med school schedule, Arrey said music is his only escape. “It’s the only place I can go to and be locked away from the world. There are no limits, and I can do whatever I want.
“Plato said music heals the soul, and there have been times when I’ve been down and listening to other types of music uplifted me.”
His young children are his greatest fans, he said. “They will jump and scream to anything with a rhythm.”
Arrey said another busy graduate of McGovern Medical School has provided inspiration, Dr. Mark Dannenbaum, assistant professor of neurosurgery.
“Despite his insanely busy schedule, he still makes time for his wife, his children, and has maintained his passion for music,” Arrey said. “When I first walked into his sophisticated home music studio, I asked him how he does it all. His response was simple. He said, ‘El you have to learn to hold onto the beautiful things that make you happy. Work hard, always do good on service, and never stop living your life. Follow your heart, there is always a way.’ Those words have stuck with me, and I wrote them down so that I can always look back to them.”