Mattace-Raso once applied for a job with Eric Clapton’s band. “My friends still make fun of me for that.” He laughs loudly. “But I did get a reply! It was a polite, typically English, letter: unfortunately, we have no vacancies at this moment.” Perhaps it was a bit of a long shot. He put the dream of becoming a musician out of his mind – “I didn’t have enough talent” – although he does occasionally fantasise about what might have been. Playing the guitar has remained a serious hobby of his. “Before corona, I used to practice with my band every week”, he said.

He ‘definitely’ wasn’t born into a musical family. “I had something to compensate!” That laugh erupts again. When he was eight years old, he started playing the piano, then the guitar. At the age of sixteen, Mattace-Raso joined his first band. He was still living in Rome at the time. He muses: “I recently found some cassette tapes on which I had recorded my own songs. If only I had done something with them…” In 1999, he came to the Netherlands to work at Erasmus MC. There was an ad in the hospital magazine for a keyboard player in a doctor’s band. Mattace-Raso saw the ad, got in touch and joined them as a guitarist and singer.

Professional tennis player

And so the music-making continued. He performed ten times a year with his band Sticky Fingers (named after The Rolling Stones album), which has a ‘classic configuration’. Mattace-Raso plays guitar and sings, a paediatric pulmonologist from Erasmus MC plays bass guitar, the keyboard player is a urologist from another hospital in Rotterdam, and the drummer is a former professional tennis player. “It’s a strange setup, isn’t it?” They rehearsed every week until corona struck.


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The geriatrician needed to give his hobby a new twist and posted his performances on Facebook. He also played songs with his son, who plays the piano. “It’s so magical when you manage to play something together. When it swings, it’s fantastic. For example, although we play Coldplay, making music together means I’ve found out he’s into older music too, like Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones.”

During his oration in 2019, he played and sang a song by The Beatles on the grand piano that often stands on stage in the auditorium. “That had never happened before.” Now, in corona time, he’s putting his musical knowledge into practice for geriatric science. “Currently, I am collaborating on research into how music affects dementia patients. Although music has been proven to work for pain management, we don’t know how it works for dementia.”

Roadies and rock stars

The performances with Sticky Fingers have not yet got going, even though we’ve see some initial easing of the rules. “It hasn’t happened yet, unfortunately. In fact, the best thing about making music is getting people to enjoy it during your performances.” The absolute highlight of Mattace-Raso’s musical career was taking part in a benefit concert for cystic fibrosis patients. We played with the Golden Earring in the Luxor Theatre. I was well looked after; roadies handed me my guitar and I felt like a real rock star. It was a wonderful evening.” He sighs. “The next day I was back in the hospital. And honestly, for a moment there I thought, what am I doing here?”


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