Who The Folk?! Daniel Volovets

How do you juggle two careers at 27 years old? Daniel Volovets does just that. Daniel is a doctor, psychiatry resident, and accomplished guitarist, who loves to teach, compose, arrange and record. Daniel talks about his musical roots and influences, when he knew he wanted to go into psychiatry, and how he balances the demands of residency with his love of music, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

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So you are you’re in the middle of a second career – and you’re not that old to have moved away from your first career.

Often when people ask me what I do, and I respond with medicine. And then guitar inevitably comes up, and they say, ‘Oh, so that’s your hobby, right?’ I say, ‘Well, no, not really.’ I’ve been playing for about 20 years now. I started when I was 7, with pretty much predominantly classical guitar and then kind of branched out into flamenco, Brazilian and jazz with a variety of instructors here in town. Probably at the age of maybe 17 or 18, I began to think about medicine pretty seriously too.

So medicine was something that you went into college thinking about?

Yeah. And actually specifically psychiatry.

What was it about psychiatry that you knew that was your path?

Well, so I had a couple pretty important experiences. First and foremost, my mom is a psychiatric nurse practitioner. So I got a chance to both see her work and actually help her with some work. I was her transcriptionist for five or six years. And so that kind of gave me an inside look into what she does and consequently, gave me an inside perspective on what I would like to do in the future. Also, being able to shadow psychiatrists here in town as well. That was a great experience, specifically actually at Hennepin County Medical Center, which is where I am I’m doing my residency now. And just seeing how those folks work and Just the tremendous talent that they have to connect with people, regardless of their background, regardless of where they come from, that really inspired me at that time.

I think a lot of people when they’re kids they’re learning guitar, they want to play rock and roll. Flamenco, Spanish, classical, that’s not typically where you see a lot of young younger guitar players going in that direction. What was it about the direction you went that rather than maybe more “mainstream”?

We always had different kinds of music playing in the house. All kinds of genres, cultures, whatnot. So my background is Russian Jewish family came from the Soviet Union, dad’s family came in 1979, mom’s 10 years later, and ended up meeting here. I was raised in this family of very diverse backgrounds. When it comes to all things, but particularly music, we had everything from French bards to the Gypsy Kings Paco de Lucia, Brazilian bossa nova Portuguese Fondos, The Beatles. I mean, it was everything. For some reason, I gravitated toward the guitar. My parents had me start playing the piano when I was four or so and that just that did not go well. I knew from the age of five or six that I wanted to play the guitar.

So how do you balance music, which is it is clearly no hobby, with residency, which is also no hobby?

It’s pretty new for me as far as the residency part. So I began about six months ago. But I guess kind of maybe rewinding that back a little bit from pre-med, med school and whatnot; first of all, being in Minnesota for all of those was very helpful and that I had my family for support. But generally speaking, there were ups and downs and what I was able to take on. So as far as the music side of it goes, I’m passionate equally about performing, teaching, composing and recording. So I’m trying to find a balance that required some finesse, so I was only able to teach on the weekends. And then would have to, you know, cut back on teaching and luckily students were extremely flexible when I had commitments or whatnot. And then with performing that’s, again, kind of a spontaneous thing. If something comes up, you take it, and if you can’t do it you can’t do it. I’ve been lucky to have a studio of my own for the previous three CDs that I’ve done. And that’s allowed a lot of flexibility to go and that you know, you can pick it up at two in the morning and if you have an idea and you don’t have anything the next morning, sure, why not? So that that that balance has been ongoing, I think, and again, it’s required adjusting depending on what I have going on. As an example, actually, right before residency, I had a few months off and released the new CD, Masquerade, and decided to do a little bit of a tour in town and then also perform in Boston through Berklee College of Music, and a few places in Wisconsin and then in Indiana.

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