Dr. Diva: A heart for music

Music nourishes the heart and soul
Feb. 17, 2016

They call her Dr. Diva. And for a good reason.

Dr. Susan Rae Jensen’s passion for medicine is equaled only by her passion for music. She loves it, supports it and even performs it.

In fact, in October, she was honored at a champagne reception at the Colorado Springs Conservatory, where the vocal arts area was named in her honor.

Jensen, a UCHealth cardiologist, has been a longstanding supporter of the conservatory and of musical education in the community. But that’s not all. She’s also performed many times as a soloist in opera and musical theater, often to benefit the arts and to aid aspiring students.

She has previously received awards from the Colorado Opera Festival, the Santa Fe Opera Festival, Colorado Springs Symphony, and Opera Theatre of the Rockies, among others.

The lady loves her music. She also loves medicine.

Dr. Susan Rae Jensen and her husband, Thomas A. Trainer, at the Santa Fe Opera Club in July 2015.

Jensen has been an interventional cardiologist in Colorado Springs for more than 35 years. She  has been active in the American Heart Association and has been a featured speaker for the association’s Go Red for Women campaign. She is one of the directors of the Colorado Board of Governors for the American College of Cardiology and a past board member of the El Paso County Medical Society. Her credentials fill pages – literally.

How did she end up with two careers?

“It’s kind of how my life developed,” she said. “I was a music major first and had all these wonderful coaches and mentors. But cardiology  is a very creative field, too.”

And while medicine can save lives, music can save souls, she believes.

“It’s a part of a person, of the development as a human being as a part of your core, a part of your soul …. It’s a talent that should be developed as part of our education process. It’s as important as science and math, and an essential part of a child’s education.”

Because so many teachers, coaches and mentors helped her, she feels it’s incumbent upon her to pay it forward. That’s why she works on projects to get kids tickets to musical performances and gives benefit concerts to provide scholarships to music students.

Music offers a “spiritual connection to the physical world,” she said.

“As a singer, you have to be very aware of the physical dynamics [of the art]. As a vocalist, you carry your instrument with you. You have to be very aware of the physical demands.”

A musical advocate

Jensen would like to see every child develop an appreciation of music for its own sake. The child doesn’t have to become an opera singer or concert pianist to benefit from music education, she said.

Her dedication to music education is what earned her the honor from the Conservatory.

“She’s terribly passionate about classical music, particularly opera,” said Linda Weise, a founder and CEO of the Conservatory.

“She’s been an advocate for the school and for these young people, and especially for an art form that is as tricky to advocate for as opera,” Weise said. “It’s not everyone’s art form – very old and challenging and few young people [explore it]. Her mentoring and advocacy is critical.”

Jensen is a great role model in many ways, Weise said.

“She’s not only a brilliant artist herself, but she’s an incredible doctor and an incredible community leader. Who better to serve as a role model for our students?”

Jensen also has given the school substantial financial support.

“She’s been a significant major donor,” Weise said. And Jensen will be part of a new partnership between the Conservatory and the Santa Fe Opera – a partnership she helped facilitate with her connections.

Juggling careers

How does a successful cardiologist find time for a second career in music? “I’m highly disciplined and highly structured,” Jensen admits. “Sometimes to my own detriment.”

She has always focused on, and excelled at, the two things she loves most. “And at this point in my medical career, I’m not on call anymore, either,” Jensen says, laughing.

It helped that her studies were sometimes staggered a little bit. “I sing in four or five different languages,” she says, but she learned them when she was young – mostly before medical school. And because music and medicine were such different disciplines, they were complementary in a way.  Each was a refreshing break from the other.

“It’s very interesting, because I have a lot of musician friends who look at me and say, ‘How do you do it?’ I just do.”

Is there anything else she’d like to do that she hasn’t done?

“I’m always looking for something new and keeping myself open to those possibilities,” Jensen said. “Luckily, I still have a voice and can sing. That won’t always be true. You just have to adjust to the realities and be open to new ways of doing things.”

Her advice to young people searching for a vocation is this: “It sounds like a cliché, but I think you need to find your passion and go with it.”

She was lucky. She found two of them.

About the author

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs and a regular contributor to UCHealth Today. She has written travel articles for major U.S. newspapers and national, regional and local magazines. She spent 32 years as an award-winning writer, reporter and editor for The Gazette in Colorado Springs.