Ken Beilman Interviewed:
Louisville Medicine Interview, May 2003
Jazz Group Returns for Gala
This year's May Gala will again feature entertainment by Dr. B and the
Boppers jazz group. For the fourth consecutive year, the quartet,
including JCMS member Ken Beilman, MD, or Dr. B, and Louisville
musicians, Chris Fitzgerald, Craig Wagner and Jason Tiemann, will
perform jazz tunes for an expected crowd of more than 500 people.
Dr. Beilman has been part of the Louisville jazz scene since the 1980s.
He played piano in an acoustic quartet for his first compact disc,
Squorkle, which consists of mostly standard jazz tunes. It is on
display for listening at the JCMS Art Gallery. He recently completed a
second audio CD that includes rock, fusion, a ballad, jazz and hip-hop
tunes that he wrote, arranged, performed, recorded and mixed. Entitled,
Nightfall, it was named after a tune he wrote based on the chord
progression from Cole Porter's song, Night and Day. It includes music
from Beilman, as pianist, and Terry O'Mahoney, as acoustic drummer.
O'Mahoney teaches music at a Nova Scotia college, but spends summers in
his hometown of Louisville. Dr. Beilman said he was honored by
O'Mahoney's desire to play drums for the CD. O'Mahoney's contribution
was added to the CD separately.
When Dr. Beilman completed the project he felt a sense of loss. "I
thought I'd write a tune called Post Partum Blues," he said. "I liken it
to having a baby." He plans to immediately start on a new CD to
compensate for the loss. He also plans to sell copies of Nightfall
at the May Gala and has committed to donating its proceeds to the JCMS
Dr. Beilman began playing the piano when he was 6 years old, and took
piano lessons for the next 10 years. His mother was a pianist and
encouraged his musical abilities. He played mostly classical and popular
music until the 1980s, when a lifestyle change gave him a chance to
spend more time to pursue jazz lessons and perform with jazz groups at
the University of Louisville. Spending more time on his music allowed
him to work on improving his improvisational skills.
Improvising, or "making it up as you go" means for Dr. Beilman "playing
bits and pieces of scales, making it melodious and fitting it together
so it sounds natural. "A lot of it is listening, learning patterns,
altering melodies and playing off the melody," he said. "Chord changes
and progressions are fundamental."
About three years ago, Dr. Beilman bought a synthesizer at the
suggestion of a music store salesperson. Dr. Beilman said his affinity
for gadgets kept him from being intimidated by the complexity of the
synthesizer. After learning how to use it, he became excited about the
possibilities and prospects of writing original tunes. He started by
taking existing tunes and adding other sounds to it, and eventually
wrote his own tunes, with encouragement and support of friends.
When he later purchased a hard disc recorder, he was able to mix tunes
and add effects to bring the instruments out. For example, he said he
could enhance cymbal sounds and add spatial effects, and switch back and
forth between channels during percussion interludes to give a broader
He spent about a year working on the CD during evenings and on weekends.
Dr. Beilman said he received technical support from Fitzgerald, whom he
considers his musical mentor. Fitzgerald has been a teacher and
performer of jazz for the past 15 years.
In addition to playing piano, Dr. Beilman also enjoys photography, and
has had several photographs published on the Louisville Medicine cover
and displayed in the JCMS Art Gallery. Many of his photographs were
taken with an underwater camera while scuba diving. He used one of his
photographs of the city of San Francisco at dusk for the cover for his
Although he enjoys music as a hobby, Dr. Beilman said he never
considered it as a career possibility because of the inherent
uncertainties. Instead, he followed in his father's footsteps, and
entered medical school. He didn't have time to play in a band while in
medical school, but he was able to maintain his skills by playing piano
in the dormitory basement. After completing a residency in internal
medicine, Dr. Beilman worked as an emergency room physician for about
seven years. When his father retired, he took over the practice. He has
remained in solo practice since 1987.
He attributes his ability to take time off for music to his medical
office manager, Teresa Alltop.
Nightfall is now available for purchase at Cox Drug Store on
by Karen Hermsen
Reprinted by permission from Louisville Medicine, May 2003, a monthly
publication of the Jefferson County Medical Society