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The Vienna Times
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May 11, 1997

Surgical Instruments
Physicians Trading Scalpels for Rock-and-Roll

     When they´re on stage, they forget about pacemakers and insurance and everything else related to work. All they think about is putting on a good show as the lights go down and each member of the band chimes in on the sax, guitars, keyboards and vocals.
     Immediately, the crowd is applauding and shouting its approval.
     This was the scene at the Vienna Grille on a recent Wednesday evening as Offtrax, a local band whose members include four Fairfax cardiologists, a pacemaker salesman and an insurance company owner, began its first set.
     "I had so many compliments from the regular customers about how great the band was," said Jim Novak, a Vienna Grille manager.
     He said the response to the band was overwhelming.
     "It makes you feel wonderful," said band leader Ted Friehling.
     Despite what he considers the band has long way to go.
     "We´re not giving up our primary jobs – otherwise we´d starve," he said.
     According to Brian Raybuck, one of the band´s guitarists, the name "OffTrax" says it all: What the members are doing is off the track of their professional careers.
     The group, which plays blues, rhythm and blues and rock, has been together for almost a year and a half, ever since administrators at Fairfax Hospital said they were looking for a band to entertain at one of the hospital´s benefits.
     With only three months to practice, Friehling said it was quite a task to put a band together. He plays many instruments, including the guitar and saxophone, but he worked quickly and assembled what fans say is a hit group.
     Friehling contacted Glenn Schuster, who sells pacemakers, and convinced Schuster to became the band´s drummer. Friehling´s business partner, Albert DelNegro, said he would play the keyboard. Two other cardiologists, Also Esposito and Brian Raybuck, offered to play keyboard and guitar as well.
     Still, Friehling needed a singer. He contacted Stacy Ann, a singer with a New York band he occasionally plays with, and asked if she would be interested in performing at the benefit. She agreed.
     Finding time to practice and selecting songs to perform proved to be the next task for the band. But Friehling said it was all worth it.
     "After that, we didn´t want to quit," he said. "I think we got good enough."
     The performance was the talk of the hospital following the benefit.
     "They were rockin´. I´ll never look at Dr. Friehling the same way," said Jane Albright, media spokeswoman for Inova Fairfax Hospital.
     According to Raybuck, performing at the benefit gave the guys an excuse to get together.
     "We knew each other and had said for years that we wanted to get together and play around," he said.
     Performing on stage may serve as a major stress reliever for the band members, but it also represents an opportunity to connect with people.
     "Teaching and lecturing are very similar to being on stage. You´re communicating to an audience," Friehling said.
     For Raybuck, performing also symbolizes hard work.
     "I enjoy the music. I enjoy taking a piece and putting all the parts together. It´s a sense of accomplishment," he said.
     OffTrax has performed at many local benefits since its first one in 1995. Friehling said the band performed at last year´s hospital benefit, too, and helped draw a crowd of approximately 1,000 people.
     Most recently, OffTrax performed at Saturday night´s benefit the American Heart Association at the Sheraton Premiere hotel at Tysons Corner.
     But the band members want to play other gigs, too, and playing at the Vienna Grille was the first step in gaining more local recognition.
     Perhaps not surprisingly, several of the members have been performing in bands since their high school and college days. Raybuck said he played during his four years in college in New York, as did Friehling.
     Friehling performed at resorts in the Catskill Mountains in New York, much like Patrick Swayze did in the movie "Dirty Dancing."
     And DelNegro is a classical pianist who had never played rock or blues until he joined the band.
     Friehling said the band likes to play a little bit everything.
     "We don´t play rap, though. It´s not that we don´t like it – we can´t do it," he said.
     The band´s practices are scheduled according to office hours, lecturing and other professional responsibilities, as well as family obligations. Each member of the band is married.
     "It leaves you with no free time. But our music is our free time," Friehling said.
     As long as they are still having fun, it´s obvious that none of the members wants to quit the band.
     "If we´re not having a good time, that´s when we won´t do it anymore," Raybuck said.
     But that could be a long time coming.
     For those who missed the band the first time, OffTrax will be playing at the Vienna Grille again on Saturday, May 3.
     And to the group members´ delight, they have been asked to play at a cardiology meeting in New Orleans on Wednesday, May 7.

–Missy Hall, Times Staff Writer




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