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William Woods

A radiation oncologist by day and a composer and pianist by night, William Woods feels that the combination complements each other. It is very evident in his second release Cobalt Blue. Woods says that working with patients in his practice helps with his music composing. "The relationships I form with some of my patients and the way they live their lives as they face their mortality often inspires my music," says Woods. "But it works in reverse, too. Creating my music affects me on a spiritual level, which helps me connect with my patients. As a doctor, I try to make my patients comfortable and informed about their treatment, but the treatment itself can often be limited in its therapeutic capabilities. With my music, I can go further and give people some of the joy and pleasure we all need in life. I've learn I can contribute both as a doctor and a musician."

In Wood's profession as a physician working in radiation oncology, many of his patients do not survive. He says, "There has to be a certain emotional distance in there otherwise there's no way I can perform my profession and do an adequate job. So in all that emotional distancing, emotions get built up and come out in the music, not so much in a negative way. I don't look at my music as being sad or more depressing in any way. It's more of an uplifting type of a feeling .kind of a hope and rejuvenation and I think that does translate well. As a matter of fact, in my department at work, my music is constantly playing in waiting areas for the patients and they seem to appreciate it.

With the music industry trying to aim its product after the most people it can reach out to, many people are being ignored by the music industry. William Woods has noticed that, too and says, "Reaching out to a mass audience is not entirely what my music is all about. One of the things that I found over the years in my practice of medicine is I've learned new ways to communicate with patients. In oncology especially, a lot of what I do is not curing people, it's taking care of them. Certain problems they come in with, pain in a bone or cancer that has spread to the brain, sometimes there's not that much I can offer them through the physical therapy that I give. But on a psychological basis, there's a whole lot that I have to offer and sometimes that's primarily what I give to them. Through that communication, I think I've learned to translate musically in the same way and communicate.

When Woods performs his music, he feels that he is really not a performer as such. He says, "To try to pursue a living on my musical alone puts a lot of pressure on the creativity and the creative process. As a result, the music would suffer. By having a separate career, it takes the pressure off the music. It allows me to pretty much play what I want to play rather than what's necessary for commercial success. Also, my career in medicine helps clear my mind in a lot of respects. It's very intellectually challenging and kind of unknots a lot of the thought process. So when I get to the music, a lot of the ideas are fresh and flow without interruption."

William Woods has a different way of composing a song. He says, "My main goal in composing is to try to touch people on a deep, emotional level. If I haven't done that, I really haven't accomplished what I set out to do. I do a lot of composing at the keyboard and a lot of it is just purely improvisational. I sit down and whatever I'm feeling at that moment, I try to translate into what's coming out of my fingers. One of the things that I've tried to do with this CD I put out is keep the message very simple on a certain level. Get a very simple melodic line building and then kind of embellish on that harmonically, and with some of the improvisations that go on there."

Cobalt Blue is Wood's second release and is centered around smooth jazz tracks. Woods says, "The first release was a showcase of what I'm capable of doing in terms of composition. It ranged anywhere from straight-ahead classical to straight-ahead jazz, to smooth jazz and everything in between. There were some new age things as well. It wasn't at all geared toward radio, per se, whereas the second CD is. I wouldn't say that the second CD is necessarily better. Let's say it's very different. I like them both equally."

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, the smooth jazz format on radio had its beginnings, but it was different than today. It was known as New Adult Contemporary and William Woods liked how it sounded. He says, "I remember the golden days, as I call 'em. I grew up outside New York City and WQCD's programming then was unbelievable. It was diverse, it was very interesting and things have changed considerably. There's so much overlap in terms of adult contemporary music that it kind of squeezes out the smooth jazz performer." He says that Internet streams like smoothjazz.com and netradio.com are helping to return the music back to the people and not the programmers. He says, "It's a nice thing, putting control back to the hands of the musicians on a certain level. It's giving them a sense of hope that their music can be played and appreciated.

Cobalt Blue is a release that might not be played on many over-the-air smooth jazz radio stations, but it should be. William Woods has a release that shows just how much music and health is related to each other. He says, "I created Cobalt Blue during a lengthy journey of personal remodeling, reclamation and expansion. It is dedicated to five patients who touched my life. One of the most important aspects of life is the relationships we make. Practicing medicine wouldn't mean anything to me without that." That relationship shows in Cobalt Blue. It has something that touches the heart and the soul for all who listen.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: William Woods
  • Interview Date: 5/1/2004
  • Subtitle: The Treatment
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