Class(ical) notes

Written by Mark Kemball

OHSU has been home to some excellent musical ensembles over the years. Three of the following four groups have been active at OHSU at some point between the mid 1950s and today. The fourth is–at least for the moment–wholly fictitious. Can you spot the imposter?

  1. The Forcep Four. A barbershop quartet, whose repertoire included a performance of “Jungle Town” with a live chimp and a skunk as “props” and a great spoof of the famous quartet from Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto.”
  2. The Sigmoid Six. A six-piece jazz band, formed out of the Phi Beta Pi fraternity, which specialized in Dixieland jazz.
  3. The Class IVs. A jazz combo formed from students and faculty in the School of Dentistry. Still active.
  4. The Sweet Adenoids. A vocal ensemble formed from students and faculty of the School of Nursing. Created after an impromptu vocal performance at one of the School’s traditional Wassail gatherings.

We’ll give you a moment to think. Scroll down the page when you are ready to continue.










The Forcep Four hold their trophy from the 1954 competition.

The Forcep Four was active in the early 50s through the early 60s and consisted of a rotating roster of medical student and resident singers. In February 1954 the group won first place in the Northwest Barbershop Quartet contest in Forest Grove, Ore., a feat they went on to repeat twice more by 1958. At his recent 50th class reunion, James Haaland, M.D. (’62) recalled his four years as the bass singer of the group from 1958 to 1962: “We practiced daily during the lunch hour on the old library stage. We had lots of fun singing for conventions, reunions, competitions and local events including the school’s annual holiday wassail party.”



The Sigmoid Six caught in rehearsal in January 1956.

The Sigmoid Six made its debut in early 1955 at the annual Phi Beta Pi 49’er party and became a popular and regular feature of Marquam Hill campus life. Performing original arrangements by John Epley, M.D. (’57), they specialized in Dixieland jazz and set aside one afternoon a week for rehearsal.





The Class IVs in a performance at the 2012 School of Dentistry Alumni Association Awards Luncheon.

The Class IVs were founded in 1968 by Professor and Associate Dean Emeritus Joe Consani. “I noticed a number of talented musicians among the student body in the School of Dentistry and nowhere for them to perform,” he said. “I decided to put a band together and it took off from there.” The Class IVs still perform, most recently at the 2011 Dean’s Gold Circle dinner and the 2012 School of Dentistry Awards Luncheon. And about that name? “’Class IV’ is the worst kind of dental decay you can have,” said Mr. Consani. “It’s become a little more relevant as we have all advanced in years.”


So that leaves the Sweet Adenoids. Sadly we have no record of a student or faculty performing group originating from the School of Nursing – yet. Perhaps today’s students will be inspired to start something up, and we’ll certainly keep our ears open at next year’s reunions in case we’ve missed something.


Music by and for students and alumni continues on Marquam Hill. Until recently a monthly noontime concert series provided an opportunity to hear some of Portland’s finest chamber players and ensembles playing in the excellent acoustics of the OHSU Auditorium. A student Glee Club has also started to rehearse around its ever-growing exam schedule .

While music has been a recreational activity for many of our alumni, the health care context within which it takes place seems to have added a layer of meaning and connection. The civil war general and politician John A. Logan once said, “Music is the medicine of the mind.” OHSU’s students and faculty indeed seem to have demonstrated the truth in that statement on Marquam Hill for many years.

Special gratitude to Dr. James Haaland and Mr. Joe Consani for their contributions, and to Mary Ann Lockwood, Associate Professor Emerita, Office of the Provost, for photos and source information.


Mark Kemball and the alumni relations team are proud to count almost 34,000 dentists, nurses, physicians, researchers, technicians and other health professionals as OHSU alumni. The team strives to keep them all connected with the university, with its students and with each other.

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