On a recent Friday evening on the DMU campus, a group of students gathered in the Student Education Center’s osteopathic manual medicine laboratory for some hands-on practice. They were perfecting a type of muscle energy technique different from what usually occurs in that setting, however, and their instruments did not include stethoscopes or reflex hammers: Armed with guitars, drums, microphones and more, these musical friends were practicing as Muscle Energy, DMU’s very own house band.
The group got started in 2012 when Rich Salas, Ph.D., the University’s then-new multicultural affairs director, began playing his guitar in his office one night after work. Brian Tacke, D.P.T.’15, who plays drums, peeked into the open door to compliment the sound.
“Two weeks later, Brian and I were jamming at a function sponsored by the [DMU] president’s office, and people appeared to have enjoyed our music,” recalls Salas, a guitarist and bass player who performed with a Latin jazz combo. “Little by little, Brian and I began to identify other DMU students, and the group grew.”
“The idea of taking an hour away from studying to play seems unwise, but afterward you feel refreshed and re-energized,”
Current members include Lindsay Brewster, D.O.’16, a former undergraduate music major and avid percussionist on instruments ranging from the snare drum to the marimba to the doumbek, a goblet-shaped drum. She connected with Tacke at a social function for first-year students in which attendees were asked to share a random fact about themselves; she shared that she had played drums with a bagpipe band.
“It’s nice to be in a group and feel very competent. Sometimes you don’t feel that way in medical school,”
Brewster says. “The band is all about fun, and that’s been wonderful.”
Muscle Energy has become a popular musical source for the DMU community. The band typically includes five to 10 students – depending on the day and their schedules – as well as Salas and Jose Figueroa, D.O.’95, assistant professor of osteopathic manual medicine and an accomplished harmonica player. The band has performed at many events, including the University’s annual holiday party for employees; forums hosted by
DMU President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D.; the open house for La Clinica de la Esperanza, DMU’s partnership clinic with UnityPoint Health; a gathering of the Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce; and a holiday party at the Wesley Acres retirement community near the University.
“We all love music, and being part of the Muscle Energy band is a great way for us to just jam out as well as build community,” Salas says.
The band landed its first big gig in April 2013 when blues/reggae band Key Lime Special came from Rochester, MN, to perform at Wellman’s Pub in Des Moines. Logan Kolb, D.O.’16, and his brother, Garrett – Key Lime Special guitarist and drummer, respectively – arranged for Muscle Energy to open the show in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
“That was the best night. We didn’t expect the student response we got,” Brewster says. “We realized the band is not just for us. Students there were from across class years and across programs. It was fun to see faculty dancing, too. You see they are human beings. It put us all on the same level. You don’t get that in a lecture hall.”
Muscle Energy has returned to Wellman’s twice since then, raising a combined more than $1,300 to benefit the Let God Be You Foundation, a charitable organization that supports education and entrepreneurism in Tanzania, and to purchase supplies for DMU’s global health service trip to Honduras this March.
Muscle Energy guitarist Adam Singer, D.O.’16, praises the University for supporting “an out-of-the-box way for students to express themselves and come together as a community.” The band plays a variety of tunes, from “Stand By Me” and “Folsom Prison Blues” to five versions of “Jingle Bells” the members mastered for the holidays.
“We all have very different styles, but we merge them together,” Singer says. He hopes to keep playing music post-medical school: “I think Muscle Energy has shown me that I can.”