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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Alice Brandfonbrener, M.D.

Picture of Alice Brandfonbrener
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Alice Brandfonbrener, M.D.

“My specialty itself has raised greater awareness among music educators and professional musicians that there are real health problems to be addressed; they're not just imaginary.”


Rep. Danny K. Davis



Alice Brandfonbrener is living proof that the arts and sciences can combine to create new fields of endeavor. She has become internationally known for her pioneering treatment of the injuries and health issues of opera stars, musicians and other world-class entertainers, many of whom consider her their primary health provider.

"There is now a greater awareness among educators and professional musicians that there are medical problems uniquely related to their business," Brandfonbrener notes.

As medical director since 1998 of the Medical Program for Performing Artists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, she has guided numerous performers back to health. "If someone comes in with a sprained wrist, I don't just look at the wrist; I study the whole patient," she explains. "A musician's medical condition frequently stems from multiple sources, including technique, physical conditioning, the repertoire, the instrument -- even their emotional state."

Nominated as a Local Legend of Medicine by Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL 7), Brandfonbrener is the recipient of a grant from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences to research the affects of focal hand dystonia. She also serves as a medical consultant to several theatres and festivals, including the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Ravinia Festival.

As for her unique specialization, she admits to "accidentally" happening upon the chance to serve as Director of Health Services at Interlochen, the world-renown music camp in Michigan that has nurtured generations of talented musicians.

In 1983, as part of its agenda, the Aspen Music Festival asked Brandfonbrener to convene a meeting on performing arts medicine.

The meeting was such a success that it was made an integral part of the festival and is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. "From that point on, everything happened," Brandfonbrener recalls. A devoted teacher, she joined the faculty of Northwestern University Medical School in 1983. "I was asked to start a clinic for performers, and then to edit the new Journal of the Medical Problems of Performing Artists, a quarterly publication."

She is proud that her love of music has been inherited by two of her four children, who have become professional musicians. Among her favorite musicians? "My children, of course!" she laughs. And the great cellist Yo Yo Mah, a performer with "heart and soul and intelligence," whom she has been privileged to know for many years.

By combining a devotion to the performing arts with her scientific discipline, Alice Brandfonbrener has helped to spread the joy of music to the public in her own harmonious way.



Appointed Head Director of Health Services, Interlochen Camp, Interlochen, MI


Begins directing Annual Medical Meeting, Aspen Music Festival on Performing Arts Medicine, Aspen, CO


Named Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the Medical Problems of Performing Artists


Appointed Medical Director, Medical Program for Performing Artists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago




Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (now Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons), New York, NY


Performing Arts Medicine