January 31, 2004 -- (BRONX, NY) – As a youngster growing up in Nigeria, Timothy Amukele, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, was not aware of the research findings of Dr. Norman Kretchmer. Dr. Kretchmer, who himself was an M.D.-Ph.D., studied the occurrence of lactase deficiency in the different geographical-economic areas of Mr. Amukele’s homeland, and his findings were very important to furthering understanding of the nutritional problem.
Now, as Mr. Amukele prepares to defend his doctoral work at Einstein, performed under the mentorship of Dr. Vern Schramm, he has teamed Dr. Sam Seifter, distinguished university professor of biochemistry, to produce a concert honoring the memory of Dr. Kretchmer.
Mr. Amukele is no stranger to producing concerts – this will be his third, although it’s the first to be performed at Einstein. His previous concerts have showcased African chorals, a music form whose history has mostly been passed on orally. For more than 10 years, Mr. Amukele has collected these chorals, to ensure they were recorded in some manner. During return visits to Nigeria, he tape-recorded several recitals and has since transcribed a number of these pieces --from four different African languages -- into sheet music.
“Unlike European classical music, we have limited information about African music because it was not recorded in the same way,” he explains. “I’m trying to change that, and my concerts offer a forum for introducing these special spirituals.”
Because of Dr. Kretchmer’s influential research in Nigeria, and his interest and efforts on behalf of programs to aid minority medical students, African chorals will be among the musical offerings at the concert.
The concert, which is free and takes place on Sunday, February 8 at 2:30 p.m., will be held at Robbins Auditorium on the Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus at Einstein. Its program also will include:
Original music by Mr. Amukele, set to poems from around the world, with text selected to reflect some of Dr. Kretchmer’s interests;
A vocalist accompanied by guitar; and
A sonata for flute and piano, composed by Samuel Zyman, a faculty member at Juilliard who is originally from Mexico.
“All of the music in some way connects to interests of Norman and Tim,” explains Dr. Seifter, who was a long-time friend and collaborator of Dr. Kretchmer’s following their initial meeting at Long Island College of Medicine (now Downstate Medical Center of the State University of New York), when Dr. Seifter was a young associate professor and Kretchmer a new medical student.
“Norman had an interest in nutritional problems all over the world, including Africa, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries. He also studied the occurrence of diabetes in ‘under-developed’ populations, including the native populations in Australia. So, our musical program weaves together music set to poetry from all over the world, African music, and a work from a modern Mexican-American composer to reflect these varied interests.”
Although he was not on the faculty at Einstein during his illustrious career, Dr. Kretchmer was an important friend to the College of Medicine. He lent his support to the school’s educational programs in human genetics and to its efforts regarding minority student advancement, including the special King-Kennedy Program created in 1969. He was a close friend of the College’s founding chair of pediatrics, Dr. Henry Barnett. He also was an occasional lecturer at Einstein.
Dr. Kretchmer died in 1995, at the age of 72. He had grown up near East Harlem.
“He had deep roots in New York City and understood the medical problems of its neighborhoods, including those around the Albert Einstein College of Medicine,” says Dr. Seifter. “He was always available to give us his nutritional, genetic, and developmental insights when needed, and for that he deserves inclusion in the memories of our school.”
For additional information about the free, memorial concert, please call 718-430-3091.