Doctor of Optometry's life is in perfect harmony

May 1, 2010

When Sol Heiman, OD, was just 4 years old, his three older sisters frequently babysat him, often dragging him to their choir rehearsals.

When Sol Heiman, OD, was just 4 years old, his three older sisters frequently babysat him, often dragging him to their choir rehearsals. Since his voice was high-pitched, he began to sing along. Before anyone realized it, he became part of the choir and performed live with them on a weekly radio show that featured a variety of girls' singing groups.

Listeners never knew that the all-girl choir actually included a young boy.

Dr. Heiman, now 80 years old, has been singing before audiences for more than 50 years. Just as impressive-he still practices optometry part-time at Vision Source in New Orleans and Saint Optical in La Place, LA.

After singing with his sisters' choir for 1 year, he took a 3-year break and began playing the violin. Two years later, at age 10, he won a citywide competition.

But, his yearning for singing soon resurfaced. He joined a variety of choruses during high school and college, and then took some time off while attending the Chicago College of Optometry.

"When I was in the air force, I was stationed in Amarillo, TX," he said. "On the radio, I heard a local quartet that won an international championship. That's what really got me interested in singing barbershop."

Dr. Heiman claimed he didn't get serious about singing until he heard that quartet in Amarillo. After military service, he returned to his New Orleans home. Now with a bass voice, Dr. Heiman joined a local group called the Mardi Gras Chorus, whose membership once numbered 85 vocalists. Then he joined his first barbershop quartet, the Butchers of Harmony-each performer wore a butcher apron-in 1957. Many more groups followed. However, Dr. Heiman sings in just one quartet today-Contemporary Sound-which he joined 25 years ago.

Presidents and entertainers

In 1987, Contemporary Sound captured first place in the Senior Southwest District Championship, in competition with other quartets from four states. The quartet also has performed at sporting events and, on three separate occasions, portrayed the quartet in the hit musical "The Music Man," with the Tulane Summer Lyric Theater.

The quartet was featured in The Harmonizer, a trade magazine, for its efforts to raise money for City Park, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. More than 4,000 people attended the noteworthy performance.

Nowadays, the group performs several times each month for birthday parties, conventions, and local charities.

The power of music

After all these years, Dr. Heiman said there was just one time when his singing actually crossed over into his role as an optometrist.

A patient had a rare eye condition that was being stabilized with medication. At the time, she was seeing a local ophthalmologist who committed suicide. When the patient's condition worsened, she came to Dr. Heiman for help. He contacted the ophthalmologist's office for the patient's records, but was told the doctor's widow would not release them.

Shortly afterward, Dr. Heiman's quartet performed with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. Next day, the patient's records were delivered to his front door. A note was attached from the widow saying, "I enjoyed your quartet."

People of all ages attend the quartet's performances. Once, after performing for a local middle school, he said all of the students stood in line, eager for autographs.

"What intrigues teenagers is our sound," he said. "We have four-part harmony. Our voices blend."

Meanwhile, Dr. Heiman said he has no plans to stop either performing or practicing optometry.

Apparently, he still has plenty left to sing about.

FYI

Sol Heiman, OD
Phone: 504-468-6514
E-mail: popsyh@aim.com

Dr. Heiman has no financial interest in the subject.