Members of Rizzetta’s Tones include Bill Stine (from left), Linda Lohr, Amanda Wells and Dr. Randy Kochel.
Dr. Kochel has played a variety of musical instruments since childhood.
Bill Stine (left), Dr. Kochel’s eighth-grade music teacher, is now his fellow dulcimer player in Rizzetta’s Tones.
Randy Kochel, M.D., never turns down a challenge, whether it’s in medicine or music.
So when he first saw a hammer dulcimer, he was determined to learn how to play it.
“One of my passions is lifelong learning,” he said. “You have to keep growing somewhere.”
Dr. Kochel, who practices at LG Health Physicians Family Medicine County Line, now plays the dulcimer in a local Celtic band, Rizzetta’s Tones. He also sings and plays a variety of other instruments, including the Greek bouzouki, button accordion, mandolin, autoharp and percussion.
Music has been a part of Dr. Kochel’s life since his birth at Lancaster General Hospital. His mom was a church organist, and his own first instrument was the marimba.
“One of my role models was Jerry Albright, my family doctor while I was growing up in Landisville,” he said. “He also was an excellent trumpet player and played upright bass in a jazz band. I saw that it was all possible.”
Dr. Kochel played in the band and chorus at Hempfield High School and in the Hershey Symphony Orchestra during his residency. It was during that residency that he began learning to play the dulcimer.
“I saw the dulcimer and thought, This looks like a challenge. This is for me,” he said.
Dr. Kochel played in the local Celtic group Crofter’s Heir in the 1990s. Keeping up with work, family and the band eventually became too difficult, and he took a break from music for a while.
He founded Rizzetta’s Tones in 2014, with his eighth-grade music teacher and fellow dulcimer player Bill Stine. The band, named in honor of noted dulcimer player and builder Sam Rizzetta, also includes Linda Lohr and Amanda Wells.
Band members play silver flute, high and low whistles, guitars and a variety of other instruments. They also sing four-part harmonies.
“Irish or Celtic tunes work very well on these instruments,” Dr. Kochel said. “We do try to play music from all over the place: Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, for example. We even do some American tunes.”
The band’s eclectic repertoire includes Irish ballads, jigs and reels, along with Woody Guthrie and Peter, Paul and Mary tunes, a Hawaiian-style version of John Denver’s “Country Roads” and a handful of original songs.
Dr. Kochel spends about a half-hour packing his many instruments for a gig. He acquired many on his travels to more than 30 countries, include a bouzouki from Crete and a ukulele from Hawaii.
His latest musical challenge is a chromatic button accordion, which looks like an old-fashioned typewriter, with four rows of black buttons.
Rizzetta’s Tones plays at local events and festivals about once or twice a month. Dr. Kochel, also a former member of the Lancaster Chamber Singers, now enjoys playing music with his grandkids.
“Music is something to balance my medical life,” he said. “I listen and talk to people all day.
“When I come home and play some music, it gives a totally different part of my brain some work and play.”