Musician vs Nurse (feat. Joe Marchisella)

I first heard of Joe during my time undertaking my Undergraduate degree at The Queensland Conservatorium back in 2013 when my peers pushed me to check him out. I was certainly grateful after witnessing such a skilled musician perform incredibly dense music with an ease and elegance that demanded respect. Then I found out they were all his compositions, and that this was just one of the many areas Joe works within the music industry.

Having already accomplished so much in his music journey, I was very interested to hear that he had become a practicing clinical nurse. This short interview focuses on the relationship between music, drumming, nursing and how Joe translates his skills between each “role”.

Do you recall what sparked your interest in nursing and roughly when this occurred?

Analogous to any career addition, it was a gradual decision making process. I have always had in interest in medicine and health at large, having had Type 1 Diabetes since childhood, so call it a “natural interest ! “. I do though remember being on a tour in Russia, and studying Nursing had been on my mind for a long time, and I saw a limo pull up outside a restaurant, and a man and woman just stepped over a homeless person. No acknowledgement , nothing. With the rose coloured glasses of memory, if there was a confirmatory point to study a profession that directly helped people, that would be it. The rest has been a mixture of hard work, great fun and life changing human interactions on all levels.

Do your skills in the music industry translate to the health industry in any direct or indirect way? (eg: being a good improviser, self direction etc).

Definitely. Self -motivation and self -discipline translated across and were a massive advantage in me achieving great results in Uni and since then in post graduate and career learning. If you can self-motivate, and remember how to be a student ( all skills learnt through successful study of music) then you have a massive advantage over 90% of the population. Period !! Being able to think and change on your feet, remaining calm and focussed under pressure all translated. The other over looked advantage is the ability of a Musician trained since childhood ( I began violin in 5th grade, and completed my AMEB exams to licentiate level by year 12 ) to use their mind to take in multiple sensory information simultaneously, use what is useful, filter what is not, and produce a cohesive response, is an overlooked however massive skill set to have. I’m am eternally grateful for Music equipping me with this.

How has becoming a clinical nurse changed the way you approach listening and/or performing music?

I have seen so many people who have and overcome massive challenges just to get out of bed, stand up and perform activities of daily living that we take for granted. That reimbued me with enthusiasm for Music, and filtered out frustrations (industry, the downward trajectory of Musical literacy and quality at large etc … ) that were leaching my happiness away from playing Music. I enjoy Music now for the simple movement and activity, and it enjoy it for what it is. Music : no more, no less.

Do you have any interest in music therapy or have any thoughts you can share on this industry?

Not directly, though I have seen it’s massive benefits.

How do you keep up your “chops” so to speak whilst working asa clinical nurse?

I still practice when I can , and am grateful for having spent a lot of time in my youth practicing and performing. My technique is natural and repeatable, and so practice now, taking into consideration work, family and personal commitments, is an enjoyable meditation.

I recall you sharing a post online regarding you giving someone CPRin the middle of a performance? Do you mind retelling this story?

Hahahhaha. Yes of course. We were playing a gig at one those Sunday afternoon Jazz session type of things, you know average age of audience: Deceased. Anyway, it came true. About half way through the second set, from memory, a lady in the front row, has a full body decorticate position fit ( her head snaps back, arms out straight, legs and feet out straight … looks like someone getting an electric shock) and slides off her chair. We didn’t find out until later she had suffered a major aneurism in her brain. My training ( I used to work ED back when I was younger ) took over and I ended up doing CPR on her for about 45 mins until Ambulance arrived. Then I just helped out, IV bag pressure, transport to the Ambulance etc… I’m grateful to say her pulse returned, however she was in a vegetative state and didn’t recover, passing away a few days later. The positive is her family were able to pay their respects before she passed. Moral of the story ? Learn your CPR !! ( and Jazz definitely isn’t good for you !! )

Have there been any other gigs where you’ve just happened to use clinical nursing skills?

Not that I can remember , however you are constantly being asked for Diabetes ( my area of specialty) advice and management . I’m only too happy to help.

What’s the biggest difference between being a musician and being a clinical nurse?

The hours of day ( I start at 07:30 am and finish at 4:00 pm). The pay !! It’s a completely different lifestyle to Nursing, however I still live the polarity hahahaha.

What did the learning curve of studying nursing compare to your music degree?

Good question. They are both lifelong learning pursuits, so are similar in many ways.

What would you say to a musician who has an interest in the health industry but doesn’t know if they’d make a good nurse?

I think you’d be surprised how many Nurses , Doctors and health professionals are Musicians of all persuasions. The skills of a successful Musician translate in to any area of pursuit, and actually , I’ve found , give you a massive advantage in study, thought processes, and the ability to relate to people, and form positive relationships.

For more information on Joe head to:

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: