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Interview with
Joana Carneiro

The opening lecture at the 19th WONCA Europe Conference is going to be given by Joana Carneiro, music director of the Berkeley Symphony and invited music director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra. In this interview, Joana Carneiro draws a parallel between the team work developed in Family Medicine settings and orchestra coordination and, at the same time, remembers the early times as a medical student, a professional path that she would eventually abandon, to embrace a musical career. Today, acclaimed by international critics, her biggest dream is to bring “happiness to people’s lives through music” and inspire “those who work with me to create beauty, at the highest level”.


In your lecture, you will express a personal view on Family Medicine. What connection is there between team work in Family Medicine and the act of conducting an orchestra?
Joana Carneiro – It is possible to link the team work found in Family Medicine and the achievements of an orchestra: Family Medicine covers many areas of healthcare, integrating them in one medical specialty, in the same way a musical conductor combines several instruments; in this sense, both Family Medicine and orchestra coordination develop the whole composition, even if at the same time it is important to know each of the components of that composition, in detail.


What are the advantages and challenges of team work?
From my standpoint, the biggest advantage is the possibility of creating beauty alongside other human beings, no matter who we are and where we come from. On the other hand, the biggest challenge has to do with the fact that we are a large number of people, with different ideas, which means that we have to find a common language to convey that beauty.


Let us understand you personal story... At the age of six, you were already studying at the conservatory. Is it true that you decided to be a music conductor when you were only nine?
Yes, I was nine years old when I first told people that I wanted to conduct an orchestra and I was lucky to be able to study music and believe in the prospect of realizing that dream.


However, you also studied Medicine. What do you remember of those days, as a medical student?
I have very fond memories of those times and I do miss some of the activities that I was involved in, when I was enrolled in medical school. Luckily, two years ago I married a doctor and now I have rekindled some of the wonderful friendships formed in those days. At present, I am perfectly aware that sciences gave me the method and the work strategies that I still use today to assimilate a score.


When you were 21, you decided to dedicate yourself only to music? What prompted that resolution?
It came very naturally. After conducting an orchestra for the first time, I realized that this was not just a dream, but a wish that could be transformed into reality.


That first step as a music conductor was given when you turned 18. Do you remember your debut?
I remember only a feeling of great joy. Nonetheless, I must recognize that I do not recollect very well the musical experience itself, because I was very focused in doing the proper gestures.


When did your international career start?
At the age of 21, when I had the privilege and the opportunity to study at Northwestern.


By the age of 33, you received the Helen M. Thompson Award. What did that recognition mean to you, both in personal and professional terms?
Receiving the Helen M. Thompson Award, bestowed by the League of American Orchestras, was a great honor and an incentive to carry on.

Nowadays, you are highly praised by the American press. What are you goals and ambitions?
My strongest ambitions and objectives are, on one hand, to create and line up the best possible music – in the attempt to bring happiness to people´s lives through sound – and on the other hand, to inspire those who work with me to craft beauty, at the highest level.


Your routine as a musical conductor requires a lot of effort and sacrifices. Even so, could you conceive a life without music?
To me, it would be extremely difficult to live without music. As a matter of fact, I think it would be nearly impossible for any human being to live in those conditions. We hear music in almost every place we enter, in every film we watch, whenever we turn on our TV sets. I believe the majority of human experiences that are relevant include music.

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Last update 2017-02-02