Dr. Fred Licciardi is known the world over as an acclaimed Infertility Specialist at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. But after hours, you'll find him writing songs at his Steinway and gigging around town.
DAY GIG: I'm an Infertility Specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center. After Rutgers University undergrad and med school, I did four years of OBGYN training at St. Barnabas Medical Center, and then went on to a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology at New York Hospital Cornell. NYU Langone hired me as a young IVF tech-savvy clinician to help start up a new center and I’ve been a founding partner for 25 years. The now large practice has a worldwide reputation for outstanding care and cutting edge research. I’m very lucky to have a big practice full of wonderful patients. I get to provide medical treatment, surgery, and lot of in vitro fertilization. I love learning about the people I get to serve everyday, hearing their stories about what they do and where they’re from, and helping them have a baby.
HOW I GOT STARTED: Like many Keyboard readers, I started with classical piano starting in the third grade. My brother Tom (one of many - I’m the oldest of six boys and a girl) and I started a rock band and had our first gig in eighth grade. I moved over to jazz piano lessons and was the piano player in the jazz band, but we played dances and parties with our rock band “Blitz” throughout high school. After a year with a band in college, the pre-med thing took took over and that was it for a while. But the bug never left me. I kept tinkering on the piano and guitar, and when I had time I would learn a new classical or Scott Joplin piece. Fast forward a couple of decades of working too hard and raising kids, I very slowly developed a repertoire that at first was good for a 30 minute local fundraiser, then a bit more until I had an hour that I could play at my brother-in-law's coffee shop. It got to the point where I was doing four hour piano and guitar cover gigs in the Catskills and at the Jersey Shore.
One evening I was catching the tail end of a television interview with James Taylor and I was so surprised when I heard him talking about his voice coach. I said to myself if someone like him has a voice coach, then no matter how good I think my voice is, I must need to get some coaching myself. That’s when I found Judy Hages. Judy is an uber-enthusiastic rock voice teacher in her 70s, and she changed my musical life around.
Songwriting to me is the most fun, challenging and satisfying thing I can do outside of medicine. I love the fact that you can create something really good; that before you started, never existed in the history of the world. I love piecing words together; it’s like a game of Tetris, fitting in the syllables and rhymes with the other lines and the melody. I once attended a lecture by a neuro-surgeon turned body photographer, and he said that the beauty of the arts is that you can make a mistake, and sometimes it’s a wonderful improvement, whereas in medicine, you can never make a single mistake ever. I love making the musical mistakes that bring me to an unexpected place that turns out to be better than where I was intended to be. This to me represents true freedom.
What are my musical inspirations? To quote the timeless Tom Petty, “The Radio.” I enjoy listening to anything. Around the time I started writing, I got satellite radio in my car: what a library of everything. I first spent a lot of time listening to the station "Willie’s Roadhouse." The classic country songs are so instructional for things like story line, meter and articulation. I remember in high school hearing Frank Sinatra being asked about the advice he would give to young performers and he emphatically said, “Pronounce every word”. Now, I listen to any and all stations, from the classics to Hip Hop. I have a few other quotes that are in my head continuously. One is by Elton John, who said "If you want to write a song just write a hymn." John Lennon (or it may have been Paul McCartney) once said the way to get a song written is to "start and get it finished." Because of this I usually make it a point to get at least two verses and a chorus done at the first sitting; it’s a good method. Bob Dylan said “Every word rhymes.” I love this idea because it gives me the confidence to not be satisfied with the easy natural rhyming word, but rather think about the meaning of the line and then bend the rhyme to fit the message. I would say that I strive for a lyric-based song. The goal is to have even one person listen intently and come up to you after saying, "I get it, I know exactly what you are saying and I feel the same." I once played for three people at an open mic, and one woman started crying as I played. That made the gig huge for me.
FAVORITE GEAR: The Roland RD-700 stage piano. It has big heavy keys with a great concert grand piano sound. At home, it’s a 1960 Steinway B. It’s a monster with deep clear resonating bass notes and a solid mid and high rage. Even if I’m not playing a song, walking by and hitting a low E gives my body a nice vibration massage. For guitar I use a Martin GPCPA1.
GIGS: A smattering of local bars for open mics and full shows. I more recently have become a regular at NYC’s iconic Bowery Electric. I am very grateful for the management there for having me, appreciating what I’m doing and having me back again. It’s really magical to play the stage where so many big names got their start.
OTHER INTERESTS: I do a lot of downhill skiing, surfing, golf and waterskiing.
Find-out more at drfredmusic.com