Rishi Rane is not your typical medical student. At 31, he is older than most of his classmates at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. That’s because he certainly didn’t follow the typical road to medical school. He took a 5-year-long musical detour.
“My college major had nothing to do with medicine whatsoever,” says Rane, who in 2009 graduated with a music degree from the University of Miami and moved to New York to pursue a career as an opera singer.
“It was cold, expensive and, the first year, I got a lot of rejections,” says the tenor and fourth-year medical student. In between endless auditions, Rane worked all sorts of jobs to pay the rent. He was a waiter and bartender; he taught vocal and piano lessons; and sang at synagogues on Saturdays and churches on Sundays. Eventually, he landed minor roles in small opera companies. He even got to sing in the chorus of Aida, his favorite opera, at the world-renown Metropolitan Opera.
“That was a really big deal because it was a dream of mine to sing at the Met.”
But after five years, he started thinking about doing something more steady and reliable.
“My mom is a registered nurse, and my sister is a physician assistant, so medicine has always been a part of my life.”
Rane decided on medical school. He graduates next May and hopes to become an emergency medicine physician.
Until then, his plate is full. Right now he’s studying for a tough board exam he has to pass to graduate, and, in July, he’s off to do an emergency medicine rotation at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Then he’s got to start applying to residency programs, plus he’s got rehearsals at the Met.
“Out of the blue, three months ago, I got an email from the director of the Metropolitan Opera,” he says.
It turns out that someone he’d worked with years ago recommended him. With the support and encouragement of his medical school advisor, Rane auditioned and was chosen to sing in George Gerwin’s classic American opera, Porgy and Bess, which opens in September at Lincoln Center.
“I’m in the ensemble and have a couple of small lines at the beginning, but singing any lines at the Met is a big deal! However, Rane remains committed to becoming a doctor. “This is obviously a great opportunity and one that I can’t pass up, but that being said, medicine is what I see myself doing. After all, I’ve come a long way and feel like I’ve found a new passion in life.”
Rane’s dream opera role is to play Radames, an Egyptian military commander who struggles to choose between his love for the enslaved princess Aida and his loyalty to the King of Egypt. But unlike Radames, Rane doesn’t have to choose between his loves, music and medicine.
“I don’t think that I have to make a choice. I’ve managed to find a way to keep music in my life through what may very well be the most stressful time in medical school. Hopefully, I can keep it up in the future,” he smiles.
For now, he’s enjoying both worlds—hitting the medical books and the high notes.