Global Health Nexus, Millennium Issue

Dr. Ira Ross - A Passion for Music

What do dentistry and music have in common? They both embrace science and art and they both have the ability to affect the quality of life. So it is not surprising that Ira Ross, Class of 1947, a music lover since childhood, segued from a 45-year career as a dental educator and practicing periodontist to a retirement devoted to making music a more vital part of people's lives.

In 1989, the former professor and chairman of the Department of Periodontics at the UMDNJ New Jersey Dental School moved with his wife, Helene, a visual artist, to St. Petersburg, Florida, which attracted them primarily because it is the home of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC), an organization of some 300 retired and semiretired individuals with a shared love of the arts. ASPEC enabled Dr. Ross to fulfill a lifelong dream by creating a musical and cultural events series for the community.

"The arts are life," says Dr. Ross. "The more we see and study art, the better appreciation we will have for life."

Dr. Ross's latest passion is fueled by his love for opera and for teaching. "I'm 79, and I figured it was about time that I brought out a CD," he says about why he recently self-produced a CD called Opera for Everyone, explaining the story of Rossini's The Barber of Seville. In fact, he was motivated by the hope that people will listen to the CD before attending a live performance, gain a good understanding of the story and operatic techniques, and be able to give themselves over to the music, rather than to try reading the words running across a panel above the stage during the performance. "It's the music I want people to love, because I love it so much," he says. With the launch of a Web site ( and plans to do a CD of Bizet's Carmen next, Dr. Ross continues his special mission of spreading the gospel of opera among ever larger audiences. Bravo, Dr. Ross!