Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons Presents The Fred Hersch Ensemble Performing My Coma Dreams at the Miller Theatre

Dec 11, 2012, 10:00 ET from Program in Narrative Medicine

Inspired by the Composer's Near-Death Experience

First New York City Performance of the Groundbreaking Jazz Theater Production

Composed by Fred Hersch; Conceived, Written & Directed by Herschel Garfein

NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University will present the New York City premiere of My Coma Dreams at the Miller Theatre on the Columbia University campus for two performances on Saturday, March 2, 2013.  Based on the personal experience of pianist/composer Fred Hersch, who survived a two-month medically induced coma, My Coma Dreams is an extraordinary jazz theater piece that explores the dividing line between life and death.  The New Republic's David Hajdu called the piece "serious, profoundly moving and sometimes disturbing, a work of dream art as elegant as Stravinsky's 'Petit Concert' and as memorable as 'Yesterday.'"

"It is an honor to present this important work," said Dr. Rita Charon, Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine. "Our program explores the deep intersection between medicine and the arts, and My Coma Dreams exemplifies the crucial links within that intersection. As a lifelong jazz fan, I am thrilled to be working with Fred Hersch, one of the foremost jazz musicians of our time. As a physician and educator, I believe that this production cuts right to the core of representation and what it means to be a patient, a doctor, a caregiver—to be human."

My Coma Dreams is based on eight dreams and nightmares experienced by the Grammy®-nominated jazz composer/pianist Fred Hersch (Leaves of Grass, Whirl) during a two-month AIDS-related coma in summer 2008.  Hersch's dream stories have been shaped into a continuous narrative by Grammy® Award-winning writer/director Herschel Garfein (Elmer Gantry, the opera) that illuminates an extraordinary journey to the dividing line between life and death. Hersch leads a versatile ensemble of instrumentalists in music that captures all of the intensity and enigma of dreams. Actor Michael Winther "a remarkable singing actor" (NY Times) (Songs from an Unmade Bed, Mamma Mia, 33 Variations) narrates, sings, and plays the dual roles of Fred and his partner, Scott. Animation artist Sarah Wickliffe contributes an evocative stream of visual imagery. 

My Coma Dreams is a new hybrid theater propelled by music, words, song, and images in fluid and ever-changing combinations that allow for the temporal flow of narrative, as well as the timelessness of jazz improvisation. Haunting and lyrical, at times humorous and frightening, My Coma Dreams pushes the boundary of music and theater into a realm that is deeply personal and inescapably universal.

Performances of My Coma Dreams are Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 with Columbia University ID, and $45 for the general public. For more information, visit, or call 212.854.7799.

For more information about My Coma Dreams, visit

Fred Hersch, who has been called "one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation" by DownBeat, has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the world today. From the late 70s onward as a sideman to such jazz legends as Joe Henderson, Art Farmer and Stan Getz, he has solidified a reputation as a versatile master of jazz piano, as well as a relentlessly probing composer and conceptualist. He is widely recognized for his ability to create a unique body of original works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire. Whether unaccompanied, in duo, or working with trios and quintets, he invests time-tested classics with keen insight, fresh ideas, and superb technique.  Hersch's numerous accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition, four Grammy® nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance and a Grammy® nomination for Best Instrumental Composition.  He has appeared on more than one hundred recordings, including over two-dozen albums as bandleader/solo pianist.  For more information about Fred Hersch, visit

Herschel Garfein is a Grammy® Award-winning writer, composer and stage director. He is the composer and librettist of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a new opera based on the play by Tom Stoppard.  His song-cycle The Divine Image will soon be released in a premiere recording by mezzo Jennifer Rivera on GPR Records. Garfein was awarded the 2012 Grammy® Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his "wildly operatic libretto" (BBC Music Magazine) for Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry in a performance by Florentine Opera, Milwaukee (NAXOS). Composition credits: Mythologies (Mark Morris), Suenos (Mabou Mines), American Steel (Alabama Symphony), Sir Peter Hall's Troilus and Cressida (incidental music, TFNA). TimeOut NY wrote that: "Garfein has all the makings of a post-millennial Carlisle Floyd…. [His] themes are deeply American and rooted in the social mores of Gens X and Y."

Program in Narrative Medicine
Through narrative training, the Program in Narrative Medicine helps healthcare professionals and educators to improve the effectiveness of care by developing the capacity for attention, reflection, representation, and affiliation with patients and colleagues. In addition to training faculty and medical students at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in narrative competency, the program offers a Master of Science degree in Narrative Medicine, intensive workshops, and inter-professional education programs designed to foster collaboration among the schools of the Columbia University Medical Center. For more information, visit


Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons presents
The Fred Hersch Ensemble performing My Coma Dreams

When: Two performances at 3:00 and 8:00 pm on Saturday, March 2, 2013

Where: Miller Theatre, Columbia University Campus, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY

Tickets: $20 with Columbia University ID; $45 for General Public.

Information:, or call 212.854.7799

Media Contacts: or 212-305-3900, or Ann Braithwaite, Braithwaite & Katz Communications, or 781-259-9600

SOURCE Program in Narrative Medicine