A Perfect Match: Medicine and Music

A Perfect Match: Medicine and Music

From ancient times, people understood the powerful connection between science and music. In the medieval university, mathematics and astronomy were studied along with music in the curriculum of the Quadrivium. In my own teaching experience, the number of outstanding scientists who have sung in in the choirs or studied organ is remarkably high, proof positive that quantitative reasoning and the technical demands of music are complimentary skills and, indeed, passions. Two of our organist colleagues, Dorothy Reiss and Angela Kraft Cross are unique musicians, because they have pursued double careers as medical doctors and organist/composers. Their lives and careers are an inspiration for young women currently in their college and graduate student years, and certainly for mature women, who aspire to lead active, creative lives. Their stories are told here in their own words.

Dorothy Reiss


“Dr Dorothy” grew up surrounded by music, starting piano lessons with her mother at four, and winning her first competition at seven. Her father, a concert violinist, coached her in dynamics and interpretation. She studied advanced piano with Dean Clarence Berg at Oklahoma City University, performing the Gershwin Piano Concerto with the OCU symphony at age 14.

At 16 she switched to the organ and after a few months of lessons, became the school organist, Classen HS, Oklahoma City, and performed a weekly radio show of Pop Tunes on the Hammond at radio station KTOW. She entered The University of Oklahoma at 17 and became a protégé of the legendary Mildred Andrews whose discipline and coaching skills enabled Dorothy to win many competitions including the National AGO Young Artists, 1952 in San Francisco. She studied composition with Harrison Kerr and Spencer Norton, composing music for several ballets performed by Orchesis, modern dance group, at OU. After completing B. Mus at OU ’53, she studied with Marcel Dupré at Fontainebleau, France, who recommended her as “…an excellent and perfect musician with a brilliant technique.”

After several years of travel and concerts she became organist-choirmaster of the American Church, Rome, Italy, 1956-58. A visiting Yale Professor heard her play and offered a scholarship to Yale Graduate Music School where she studied composition with Mel Powell, and organ with Frank Bozyan performing her Masters Degree Recital at Woolsey Hall, 1959.

Her father’s death from end-stage Diabetes a few months later led her to the healing arts. She attended Pre-Med classes at Columbia University Night School, New York, and worked on Wall Street during the day. Admitted to The University of Oklahoma School of Medicine at age 33, she received a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1969. After four years post-grad training, Internship French Hospital, San Francisco, and Medicine Residency at Huntington Hospital, Pasadena, and Los Angeles County General Hospital, she practiced Internal Medicine for 30 years in Pasadena. After retiring from medical practice in 2000, she relocated to Las Vegas, and resumed organ playing in 2003.

In 2006 she participated in Pipe Dreams Live from Las Vegas, as part of the Mid-winter AGO Conclave, and performed her 75th (2006) and 80th (2011) Birthday celebration recitals for capacity audiences at The University of Nevada Las Vegas. She was a featured soloist at the American Guild of Organists Region IX Convention in San Francisco July 2011, performing at First Congregational Berkeley, the same venue where she played her winner’s recital in 1952, and again for AGO Region IX Convention in Bakersfield June 27, 2013. She has presented her workshop “Performing in the Golden Years, Just Survive or Really Thrive” at several regional conventions and AGO National Convention in Nashville, July 2012. She is a member of Southern Nevada Chapter AGO and her commercial CDs are distributed by www.cdbaby.com and www.amazon.com. Videos of her performances and compositions are at https://www.youtube.com/user/firesong75

Dr. Dorothy enjoys an active concert schedule, is Associate Organist at First Christian Church, Las Vegas, and maintains performance edge by a vigorous program of workouts and swimming. She enjoys photography, languages, travel, friends and laughter. She is married to Dr. Louis C. Riess, B/G USAFR Ret., has two step sons and two grandchildren.

March 2014

Angela Kraft Cross


Angela Kraft Cross, San Francisco Bay Area organist, pianist and composer, graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in 1980 with bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Organ Performance. She then earned her Doctor of Medicine degree at Loma Linda University, where she subsequently completed her residency in ophthalmology. In 1993, she completed her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the College of Notre Dame with Thomas LaRatta, with whom she continues to study. Her organ teachers have included Louis Robilliard, Marie-Louise Langlais, Sandra Soderlund, S. Leslie Grow, William Porter and Garth Peacock. In 2001, she was awarded the Associateship credential of the American Guild of Organists (AAGO) after passing rigorous playing and written examinations. She has studied composition with Pamela Decker in recent years.

Dr. Kraft Cross has performed extensively on both organ and piano, having given over four hundred concerts across the United States, in Canada, England, Holland, France, Hungary, Lesotho and Guam, including such venues as Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Sulpice and the Madeleine in Paris, Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Thomas Church in New York City, Methuen Memorial Music Hall and Trinity Church in Boston, E. Power Biggs’ organ at Harvard, and Westminster Abbey and Southwark Cathedral in London. She has been featured soloist with local Bay Area ensembles; Master Sinfonia Orchestra, Soli Deo Gloria, Sine Nomine, Masterworks Chorale, and the San Jose Symphonic Choir as well as Seattle’s Philharmonia Northwest Chamber Orchestra and the Skagit Symphony in northern Washington. In July 2011, she was a featured recitalist at the San Francisco AGO Region IX Convention, premiering Pamela Decker’s new composition Golden Gates. She has released six CDs; three with Arkay Records: two on organ (French Romantic and North German Baroque) and one on piano (Classical Piano Sonatas); and three with Compass Audio in Europe: (200 Years in the Germanic Tradition, the Majesty of Cavaillé-Coll and her most recent release: a 2CD set of Mendelssohn’s organ works recorded on the 1801 organ of St Margaret’s Lothbury, London.) Three of her organ albums have received critical acclaim in The American Organist magazine. She has served as the organist of the Congregational Church of San Mateo since 1993, and is currently their Artist in Residence. She is also a staff organist at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

In addition to her musical career, Dr. Kraft Cross retired in 2011 having worked for 22 years as an ophthalmic surgeon at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Redwood City, and now practices ophthalmology with the Peninsula Ophthalmology Group. She is committed to the musical education of young people, and since 1997 has been instrumental in organizing an annual Organ Camp for young pianists headquartered at her church. Dr. Kraft Cross also served as faculty and or performed in Pipe Organ Encounters in San Francisco 2005, San Diego 2012, and Stanford 2013. She is the Regional Coordinator for Education for Region IX AGO and a member of the executive board for the Junior Bach Festival in Berkeley. She is also a member of the Concert Artist Cooperative.

French Romantic Favorites (organ) 2002 St Mary’s College, California

Stylus Fantasticus (organ) 2003 Pacific Union College, Angwin, California

Elegance of Vienna (piano) 2004

Buxtehude to Brahms, 200 years in the Germanic tradition (organ) 2006 American Church in Paris

The Majesty of Cavaillé-Coll (organ) 2007 Notre Dame d’Auteuil in Paris

Felix Mendelssohn at St. Margaret’s Lothbury London, a 200th Birthday album (organ) 2009

Sharing the Journey (organ) 2013 Angela Kraft Cross performs her own compositions 1993-2013 on the Dobson organ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

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