Shira Tomboulian composes

Shira Tomboulian composes a
song every day and is
currently producing a

For the past three or so years, I have enjoyed spending time with my friend Shira. She is a fellow New Yorker (actually, grew up four towns away from me; her cousin was a classmate of mine in high school). She is an engineer, a practicing physician, a composer, and a musician on several different instruments. And in her vast amounts of “free time,” she’s a lay leader with the Jewish community up in Fargo, ND. She and her husband lived in Fargo for a while, then moved to Sisseton to work in the hospital and clinic here.

I got to know Shira over these past few years as we ventured to powwows, visited state parks, or just shared tea after long days in our ministries. Shira often spoke of her experiences writing music. She’s producing a quartet and is currently planning a symphony based on the world’s experiences of this past year. 

The other day, she arrived in her COVID mask with her cello case and asked if she could share her music with me as part of her good-bye. She and her husband David are moving to California to be with her adult daughter. I’d gifted her with a Dakota flute I’d made at a local workshop. She knows I can’t hear music, but we’d talked at length about the ways science and art are intertwined. So, she gave me a little “tour” of her $5,000 instrument (and the $1,000 bow!) and let me touch it as she played several different pieces/styles. The vibrations were fascinating… and Shira’s knowledge of the physics of the instrument was equally fascinating.

Me playing my four-note 
(four string) composition
I actually thought she was teasing when she asked if I wanted to try it. I mean, those who know me well know that gracefulness with a $5,000 instrument is probably not a good bet right now! But, she assured me and so I did. 

Try it, not PLAY it. 

But, it was an amazing experience because you hold the body of the instrument against your chest, so as you bow the strings, you feel the vibrations WITHIN you, not just ON you. Harmonics, resonance, and a whole bunch of physics make this happen. The joy and awe weren’t in the physics, though. This, for me, was a new and powerful experience of music… a whole-body experience.

What a neat good-bye gift. I’m going to miss her.