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 »  Home  »  Music  »  Dr. Ante L. Padjen Croatian neuroscientist and founder of I Medici di McGill Orchestra in Montreal CA
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Dr. Ante L. Padjen Croatian neuroscientist and founder of I Medici di McGill Orchestra in Montreal CA
By Darko Žubrinić | Published  11/14/2012 | Music , Science , People , Entertainment , Education , Culture And Arts , Croatian Life Stories | Unrated
Member of editorial board of prestigious Annals of Neurosciences

Professor Ante Padjen on the right, distinguished Croatian neuroscientist in Canada, founding president of Almae Matris Croaticae Alumni Québec,
with past presidents of Croatian Alumni Québec, Canada.

An interview with Professor Ante Padjen conducted by Mr. Joza Vrljicak in Québec 2008.

Music: The Best Medicine. I Medici celebrates twenty years          

La Scena Musicale, 14.6 (March) 2009
2009 March 27

Imagine an orchestra in which half the members can recite the Hippocratic oath as easily as they can play a scale. Enter I Medici di McGill, the Montreal ensemble that boasts a wealth of doctors and medical students amidst a splattering of lawyers, dentists, engineers, biochemists, physicists and oceanographers. “Even those musicians who aren’t doctors have surely visited one over the past two years. That way we maintain the medical link,” jokes Ante Padjen, founder and principal violist of I Medici.

Padjen, a neuropharmacologist at McGill University, comes to life when he discusses his orchestra. In his office on the 13th floor of the McGill medical building, he shuffles through scrapbooks that date back to I Medici’s conception in 1989. Meanwhile, in the reception area, the secretary and her computer fight for space with a harpsichord and a double bass leaning against the filing cabinets.

Professor Ante Padjen

Padjen’s musical life began in Croatia at an early age. His father, an amateur violinist, enrolled him in music school, which provided three hours a day of immensely formative education. Graced with a forward-thinking theory teacher, Prof. Elly Basic, who shed the traditionally rigid practices of music pedagogy, Padjen acquired a great appreciation for music and discovered his own natural talent.“We were taught to believe that music is something every child has the ability to do,” he says. “It is an innate capability.” Later, Padjen studied viola with Prof. Miroslav Miletic who was also a composer.

At the age of fourteen, a twist of fate led Padjen from a musical path to a medical one. Stricken with tuberculosis, he was confined to a sanatorium for 600 days. Chance handed him a roommate who happened to be a physician, sparking in Padjen a voracious enthusiasm for medicine. After two years, he left the hospital inspired to pursue a medical career. Impressively, he never fully “dropped out of music.”While in medical school, at the age of 18, he formed the Jeunesses Musicales Orchestra in Zagreb. But when offered a placement at the prestigious Orford summer academy, Padjen went instead to Geneva, where he delivered babies for his medical training.

Straying from Zagreb to Edinburgh to Washington to Texas, Padjen finally fell in love with Montreal, recognizing that here he could raise a family and enjoy the kind of life he had envisioned for himself.“And then of course there was McGill,” he adds. Quickly forming string quartets with talented colleagues at the Faculty of Medicine, Padjen eventually decided to merge these quartets into what would soon become I Medici di McGill in 1989 under the baton of Wanda Kaluzny.

Over the past twenty years, Padjen has had the pleasure of seeing 320 musicians of every age and medical specialty pass through the orchestra.  “Recently I received a letter from one student, a really smart guy who had several options to study medicine. He chose McGill so that he would able to play in I Medici,” he tells us. Despite the positive publicity that the orchestra lends to the Faculty of Medicine, I Medici receive no funding from McGill University(*). They are, however, provided with free practice space at the school.

What propels successful doctors and scientists with hectic lifestyles to devote three hours of their week to an amateur orchestra? “For many, this is a return to something they cherish and really enjoy,” explains Padjen. “The orchestra allows musicians to express themselves in spite of having turned away from musical careers.” He observes a work ethic that almost surpasses that of professional musicians. Highly skilled professionals in various fields, the orchestral members are able to apply their focus and discipline to the practice of music. Iwan Edwards, the esteemed conductor of I Medici, concurs that the musicians display exceptional concentration.“They work solidly for two hours and forty-five minutes each week, and I know that the majority of them find time to practice between rehearsals,” he says.

Conductor of the ensemble since 2000, Edwards revels in the opportunity to explore monumental orchestral works with instrumentalists who play purely for the love of music. He acknowledges that the orchestra lacks the experience of a professional ensemble in terms of repertoire, style and technique, but he finds the experience of conducting I Medici greatly rewarding. “I am grateful for the privilege of having such a committed and enthusiastic group of musicians to work with at this stage of my life,” he says. “They are patient as we dissect works and put the pieces together again. They are eager to learn about style and they are supportive of each other. They’re always ready to ‘push the envelope further’ and they are never complacent.”

As Padjen witnesses the 20th anniversary of his beloved I Medici, he shows no sign of losing energy. Outside of the orchestra, he has delved into the world of music and biology, endlessly fascinated with the link between music and the brain against different cultural backdrops. This interest has spurred a series of lectures for which Padjen invites various specialists in the ever-growing field of music and neurobiology. The thought of life without music is unimaginable to the neurophysiologist/violist, who says, “It’s like asking if you can live without food or air. Music is communication. I’m happy to be alive and to be able to play it.”

I Medici di McGill will perform March 23 and April 20, 2009 (20th anniversary concert)  at Oscar Peterson Hall, Loyola Campus of Concordia University. Visit


The logo of I Medici McGill Ensemble. The orchestra has been founded by Professor Ante Padjen in 1989.
Professor Padjen is playing viola in the middle of the first row.

For Montreal viola doc, music's a kind of medicine

Dr Ante Padjen recalls the day he met avant-gardist John Cage

By Ryan Bergen

Years ago, Ante Padjen, a medical student doing a clinical clerkship at Zagreb University hospital, had helped organize the midnight spectacle about to unfold at a nearby concert hall — and he just had to be there to see it.

"I was on-call and I managed to sneak out," recalls Dr Padjen, now a neurophysiologist at McGill University, and the founder and principal viola of I Medici di McGill (The Physicians of McGill), a performing orchestra made up largely of physicians, medical students and medical faculty.

That night in Zagreb, John Cage, the avant-garde American composer — notorious for stunts such as 'performing' by not performing at all — was taking the stage. In 1963, when Mr Cage's "destructive interventions in music," as Dr Padjen puts it, were still fairly novel, Yugoslavia was a porous exception to the Iron Curtain separating the West and the Soviet Bloc, and Zagreb's biannual modern music festival was young. The performance was not something the 21-year-old med student was prepared to miss. He had already had enough musical frustration in the past. A bout of tuberculosis when he was a teenager had exiled him to a sanatarium for nearly two years, and away from his viola for much of that time. There, his two enduring passions for music and medicine were fixed. His roommate, a doctor, tutored him and on his own he studied music theory and composition while listening to classical music and jazz on the radio for hours.

John Cage and his troupe didn't disappoint, Dr Padjen remembers. "They made kind of a circus out of it, but [Cage] never changed his poker face." Dr Padjen recalls famed dancer and choreographer Martha Graham's fruitless efforts to hush the bellowing laughter of a fellow concertgoer, a Russian composer who couldn't contain his glee at the outrageous display onstage.

Dr Padjen was called back to the hospital briefly, and when he returned to the concert hall, the place looked like it had been turned upside down. Offstage, an ardent defender of the composer was tangling with a man he believed was trying to sabotage the performance with a whistle. "But I'm part of the concert," was the man's defense. Programs were tossed onstage. Mr Cage, confusing an ambitious autograph seeker wielding a can of red paint for a vengeful critic, had scampered off.

"This actually is a true story," Dr Padjen laughs.

The story ends with Dr Padjen returning to the hospital to stitch up his own brother who, during the commotion onstage, had accidently split his head open on a loudspeaker.

"It was an exceptionally exciting time," he says.


For Dr Padjen, focusing his passion and energy on listening to, composing and performing classical — and sometimes unconventional — music was the antidote to living under a repressive political regime. "It is hard to imagine in [Canada's political] environment what it meant to do music for us [in ex-Yugoslavia] because this was our avenue where we were unimpeded, unchecked, politically independent," he says.

As a student he saw peers who had expressed themselves in more politically charged ways arrested, and he would later see in the hospital the physical wreckage of police beatings.


Over 40 years later, music and medicine are still bound together for Dr Padjen, who studied and researched in Scotland and Washington, DC before settling in Montreal in 1975. "Music is what we would call 'human wellness'," he contends.

And Dr Padjen, who has devoted his research career to cellular neurophysiology, argues there is a wisdom in music that scientists need to listen to. "It is the following: no musical element makes any sense unless it is in the context of the whole," he says. "In science it is the same. No cellular observation makes any sense except local sense unless it is understood as a larger complex structure."

In an effort to demonstrate some of the connections between music and science, each season of I Medici includes a public concert paired with a lecture on the biology of music.


Since I Medici di McGill began in 1989, the orchestra has played convocations, benefits, public concerts and has a discography of nearly twenty titles. Dr Padjen's even set up a website where anyone interested can buy recordings of the group's performances.

Rehearsals, held every Monday night, give orchestra members a chance to unwind, but Dr Padjen says they also play an important role gathering medical professionals and students to share ideas and ask questions. "This is what community is all about," he says.

Plus, it can be handy — like when Dr Padjen asked the first flautist, an ophthalmologist, to bring his medical bag and perform minor surgery on him during a break in rehearsal.

When I Medici began as an ensemble of 14, its talent was drawn almost exclusively from the McGill Faculty of Medicine. Now, convening upwards of 50 busy surgeons, researchers and students who can fill out the orchestra to practice each week is, not surprisingly, one of Dr Padjen's biggest challenges. As the orchestra has grown, Dr Padjen says the medical blood in it has thinned. "We'll always have a medical link," Padjen cracks. "If you've been seen by a doctor in the last two years, that's good enough."


I Medici di McGill ("Physicians of McGill") Orchestra was founded in 1989. Its primary roots are musical talents found amongst the staff and students of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University in Montréal and their medical and musical colleagues and friends in the Montréal area.

Orchestra's membership in its 20th season 2008/2009 consists of more than 55 players but over the years more than 300 instrumentalists have been associated with the ensemble.

Since 2000 the ensemble is under the musical leadership of Iwan Edwards, who succeeded the founding conductor Wanda Kaluzny.

Mission of I Medici...

is to provide musical content for various events in the life of the Faculty, the University and the community and thus add a unique social dimension to medical education and profession...

In the past twenty years this has amounted to over 160 concerts with the participation of some 400 players.

In addition to regular Public Concerts the ensemble plays at faculty meetings, convocations, scientific meetings and congresses, fund-raising campaigns, etc.

I Medici plays often for hospitalized patients in the Montreal area.

Since 1991 One of the hallmarks of I Medici's double heritage has been a yearly series of multidisciplinary lecture-concerts on the theme "Music & Medicine - Biology of Music", exploring many links between these two areas.

I Medici supports medical student activities at McGill University, such as Student Exchange Program in collaboration with Student Association for Medical Aid (SAMA), AMCA Québec and other societies.


Padjen, Ante L.

Trained as musician, physician and scientist in Zagreb (Croatia), Edinburgh (Scotland) and Washington, DC. (USA). Since ‘76 professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill University.

Padjen is the Founder (1989) and Director, Principal violist of I Medici di McGill as well as a member of several chamber ensembles of I Medici.

He was the soloist with the ensemble in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in 1995/96 season.


Dr. Ante Padjen

War doesn't end when the bullets stop, as Jean-Sébastien Joyal can attest.Last May, The McGill University medical student from Drummondville spent three weeks at an orphanage in Zagreb, build on the very site where a bomb fell. In the aftermath of war, 200 children call the orphanage home, many of them handicapped. During his stay in Croatia, Jean-Sébastien Joyal helped his two "aunties" at the orphanage attend to their charges.

He played water games with the kids in the small pool on the property. He taught some children how to swim. Jean-Sébastien grew close to one child in particular -- Zlatan, a little boy born with only one leg whose parents left him at the hospital in Bosnia during the war. He fed and dressed Zlatan, but most of all, played with him, because the overworked aunties had no time for play, and Zlatan, who had difficulty keeping pace with the other children frolicking outside, was accustomed to staying indoors in his room or in the bustling kitchen. That changed when Jean-Sébastien came along. He put Zlatan in the swings, dipped him in the pool and taught him how to become more self-reliant. Helping those in struggling communities to help themselves is the founding principle behind the Student Association for Medical Aid (SAMA), a humanitarian-aid group formed last year by medical students at McGill. SAMA has grown considerably a very short time.

In the near future, McGill medical students plan humanitarian visits to Vietnam, Nepal, Armenia, Haiti, Mexico -- and Croatia again -- bringing a listening ear and willing hands to those in need, and bringing home with them some understanding of the trauma armed conflict has inflicted. Kiran Nayar, 19, a pre-med student at McGill from Baie d'Urfé, leaves for Zagreb on May 4. She'll stay in the same orphanage where Jean-Sébastien worked last year, then move to a refugee camp in Rijeka, a seaside town along the Adriatic coast in Croatia. Rijeka saw little action during the war, which made it a safe haven for refugees, but there's plenty of action there now, of a different sort, as those uprooted by the combat attempt to piece their lives back together.

Kiran, a budding doctor, is eager to offer help, support and compassion. In the process, she hopes to learn about the delivery of health care in a nation where health-care services have been severely strained. Kiran's trip - and Jean-Sébastien's last year - was eased along with help from Dr. Ante Padjen, a professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill and an enthusiastic booster of SAMA. Padjen was born in Zagreb, where he finished medical school. He came to Montreal 22 years ago. Padjen used his old contacts in Croatia to smooth the entry of McGill students into a war-torn area last year -- and he has helped arrange for a fifth-year medical student from Croatia to come to McGill to study for six weeks this summer. It's an exchange everyone in SAMA would like to see continue and grow. But money for humanitarian exchanges is virtually non-existent. The students have to raise it themselves. "We do not lack for enthusiasm, commitment or concern for our work," says literature the students use to solicit donations. "Our major obstacle is raising the large amount of funds necessary for overseas projects."

To aid that cause, Padjen again stepped forward. When he was growing in Zagreb, he studied the viola, conducting and composition. He dreamed of becoming a professional musician. He took a different path as an adult, but he never veered from his childhood devotion to music. When he came to McGill, he sought some way to integrate music into his work. Eight years ago, he founded I Medici di McGill, an orchestra composed mainly of faculty and students in the McGill college of medicine. I Medici has performed over 60 concerts -- at medical conferences and faculty meetings, for hospital patients and for the public three times a year at Christ Church Cathedral. Its conductor is Wanda Kaluzny, founder of the Montreal Chamber Orchestra.

Tonight, I Medici performs a program of Beethoven and Haydn at a benefit concert for SAMA. The orchestra has performed the same program before, but as Padjen notes, it just so happens that the Haydn piece - Symphony No. 103 - contains two Croatian folk songs, tunes Haydn picked up as a court musician at the Esterhazy estate in eastern Austria, where there are still about 60,000 Croats living - refugees from a conflict four centuries ago. Thus the music has a special meaning for the evening, and for the medical students who will be venturing to Croatia in the coming weeks - and for those students who have already been there. When Jean-Sébastien recalls his trip to Croatia, the memory of Zlatan comes to mind -- the little boy's generosity of spirit, his happy disposition and above all, his sense of hope. It's a sense of hope for humanity that Jean-Sébastien feels compelled to pass along -- to students, friends and family — and to anyone else who will listen.

The Montreal Gazette


Ante L. Padjen (1990 -
M.D., M.Sc., D.Sc.
PRESIDENT FONDATEUR OF Almae Matris Croaticae Alumni Québec


Obavijest VRH o osnivanju Savjeta za Hrvate izvan RH          

Dragi članovi i prijatelji,

U privitku prilažem nekoliko obavijesti koje smo primili od veleposlanstva Republike Hrvatske u Ottawi.

1) Pismo Veleposlanika [PDF]

2) Službeni poziv Državnog ureda za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske [PDF]

3) Sastav Savjet [PDF]

Izvadak iz pisma:


"U tijeku je osnivanje Savjeta za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske, kojega će uskoro osnovati Vlada Republike Hrvatske, a u skladu s člankom 17. Zakona o odnosima Republike Hrvatske s Hrvatima izvan Republike Hrvatske.

Savjet će ukupno imati 55 predstavnika Hrvata izvan Republike Hrvatske,od čega 3 iz Kanade, a koje imenuje hrvatska Vlada na razdoblje od 4 godine. Kao savjetodavno tijelo Vlade, Savjet će biti nadležan pomagati Vladi u stvaranju i provedbi politike, aktivnosti i programa u odnosu na Hrvate izvan Domovine.

U tom cilju, zajednice Hrvata u inozemstvu pozvane su da u sljedećih mjesec dana predlože imena svojih predstavnika u Savjet. Kandidati bi trebali biti predloženi iz redova najznačajnijih i najbrojnijih udruga, institucija ili drugih oblika organiziranja, iz redova osoba koje su uvažene u sredinama u kojima žive, angažirane na očuvanju i jačanju hrvatskog identiteta svojih zajednica i na unapređenju odnosa sa svojom domovinom.

Ovim bih putem želio zamoliti Vašu pomoć u distribuciji ove informacije medu Vašim članovim, koje želimo ohrabriti da razrmotre ovaj poziv i pokušaju identificirati časne i ugledne pojedince za koje smatraju da bi bilo primjereno da predstavljaju zajednicu kanadskih Hrvata u Savjetu za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske.


U privitku dostavljamo službeni poziv zajednicama Hrvata u inozemstvu za predlaganje predstavnika za članove Savjeta, a koji je 10. listopada raspisao Državni ured za Hrvate izvan Republike Hrvatske.

Prijedloge s imenima predstavnika za Savjet zajednice Hrvata trebaju podnijeti ovome Veleposlanstvu zaključno do 10. studenoga 2012., zajedno s pisanim obrazloženjem kandidature i životopisom predloženog predstavnika.

S poštovanjem,

Veselko Grubišić
Veleposlanik Republike Hrvatske u Kanadi

Vaše prijedloge izvolite poslati na adresu veleposlanstva:

Embassy of the Republic of Croatia to Canada
229 Chapel Street, Ottawa, ON, K1N 7Y6

Tel: +1 613 562 7820  Fax: +1 613 562 7821

Srdačan pozdrav,

Ante L Padjen


Prof. Ante L. Padjen,
Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics,
School of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC (

Dr. A.L. Padjen: Alcoholism          


le vendredi 24 fevrier 2006
20 hr (apres la Reunion generale annuelle de l'AMCA QC)
Entrée libre, Contribution volontaire suggérée 10$, Les étudiants et l’âge d’or : $5

Dr. A. L. Padjen
McGill University


Alcohol (ab)use is part of our (Western) society with a major impact on our health and health care. The lecture will try to illuminate factors that lead to chronic abuse of alcohol and possible mechanisms involved. Rational therapeutic interventions will be discussed emphasizing the multimodal approach.


Almae Matris Croaticae Alumni Québec

Related article on Acoholism:
Vladimir Hudolin distinguished Croatian psychiatrist and humanist

Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
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