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Healthcare Professionals / Progress Notes / In the Spotlight / Dr. Christopher Shih is world-renowned pianist, accomplished physician

Dr. Christopher Shih is world-renowned pianist, accomplished physician

Christopher Shih, MD, will perform on March 27 at the Ware Center of Millersville University with world-renowned professional cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan.

When Christopher Shih, MD, answers questions about his impressive endeavors as an amateur pianist, the board-certified gastroenterologist often qualifies his answer by saying, “Medicine and family come first. Piano is just a hobby.”
Many full-time professional musicians would be thrilled to have Dr. Shih’s musical résumé.
In 1997, Dr. Shih took a year off from medical school to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions: the professional Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Qualifying for the competition is a feat in itself; in the competition, Dr. Shih made it to the top four in the United States and the top 30 in the world. He met his wife, Maya, a violinist, that same year.
Fourteen years later, by that point a physician and father of three, Dr. Shih won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs — an equally elite venue for amateur, rather than professional, musicians.
Highly acclaimed and having performed worldwide, Dr. Shih will perform on March 27 at the Ware Center of Millersville University with world-renowned professional cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan. In 2011, Hakhnazaryan won the gold medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, the most prestigious prize awarded to a cellist.
“I play about two concerts a year, which is all I care to handle,” says Dr. Shih, who joined Regional Gastroenterology Associates of Lancaster (RGAL) in 2012. “When opportunities to play with world-class musicians arise, I embrace them, but music is a hobby to me. Work and family always come first.”
Although he started playing piano at age five and engaged in a rigorous competition and performance schedule throughout his youth, Dr. Shih never considered pursuing music as a career.
“I was always on track to be a physician,” he says. “I was like every other Asian kid — I played the piano and the violin and wanted to be a doctor.”
After graduating cum laude with a degree in biochemistry from Harvard University, he attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After completing medical school, Dr. Shih did his internal medicine residency training at the University of Pennsylvania and his gastroenterology fellowship training at Johns Hopkins. For almost nine years, he never touched a piano, because he was too busy with his medical career and budding family.
In the past decade, amateur competitions have gained popularity, and Dr. Shih has claimed a number of prizes, including the grand prize at the 2008 Paris Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano, the 2007 Boston International Piano Competition for Exceptional Amateurs and the 2006 Washington International Piano Amateurs Competition.
He has performed with some of the world’s leading musicians and will be following his March concert at the Ware Center with a concert in Baltimore in May with Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
In addition to performing, Dr. Shih lends his musical expertise to local organizations, including the Millersville University arts advisory council and the Lancaster International Piano Festival, whose president is Jeffrey M. Hardin, M.D., of The Heart Group.
Dr. Shih notes that he does not use music as an outlet; instead, he is goal driven and practices for perfection before concerts. Although he rarely talks publically about his piano hobby, he is eager to help Millersville University get the word out about Narek Hakhnazaryan, the cello virtuoso who will be gracing the Ware Center stage.
Dr. Shih and his wife, Maya, have children ages 11, 9 and 4. Each child plays a string instrument, and the family has the instrumentation for a piano quintet. The entire family, he says, is thrilled to be in Lancaster.
“I was in a gastroenterology practice in the Washington, D.C., area at the time, and when I started looking for a new position, RGAL far outshone the other practices I looked into,” Dr. Shih says. “I had been to summer camp at Franklin & Marshall College, so I was familiar with the Lancaster area. We love it here.”
Dr. Shih encourages everyone to attend the March 27 concert at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince St., Lancaster, for an opportunity to hear Narek Hakhnazaryan. Tickets can be purchased at:
Dr. Shih’s website:
Dr. Shih playing Brahms, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Händel, Op. 24, at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in May 2011:



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