Chesapeake’s straight-laced neurologist Gil Snider, MD reveals a secret talent for music as he and wife Judy release their debut country single

by Cristi Sanchez, Chesapeake Shopper

Life can be full of unexpected surprises — events not of our making that can open new doors of opportunity. They can often lead to connections so well timed and perfect as to be called by some divine intervention.

One such surprise called on Gil Snider, MD, a neurologist at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, and his wife Judy in 2013 when they suddenly found themselves writing lyrics for country songs. Now one of their songs has been released as a single.

When many people think of doctors in their off-hours, they imagine a driving range at the local golf course or perhaps a tennis match with one of their peers. Not so for Dr. Snider.

"Many people don’t realize it, but there are many physicians who are very creative. Because of our work and the time involved, it can be quite difficult to take that expressive portion of your personality and really use it," he reveals.

In their spare time, Judy and Dr. Snider enjoy creative endeavors, especially writing. His first creative venture was ten years ago when he published his first medical thriller Brain Warp, and he’s in the process of writing a second novel he hopes to complete next year. Judy, too, is an author. Her children’s book Goldy’s Baby Socks was published in 2005, and she co-wrote the award winning I Love You, Be Careful with her sister Joan Dickow in 2010.

So how do a neurologist who grew up on classical music in Brooklyn and a retired social worker go from writing books to writing country songs? "Well, it all started about 18 months ago," Dr. Snider states. "Judy and I went on a bus tour called Tastes and Sounds of the South. It sounded like fun, and it was a delightful musically-oriented tour that started in Nashville then went to Memphis, then Mississippi, and ended in New Orleans."

While in Nashville, Judy and Dr. Snider visited the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. "Country music for my generation was Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, and Willie Nelson. Visiting these iconic landmarks gave me a new appreciation for country music, and it also exposed me to the new styles," Dr. Snider says, referring to today’s pop-edged country music.

"We like songs that have very emotional,
heartfelt sentiment to them. This song resonates
with anyone who has lost parents, friends, siblings, 
or children. It’s touched a lot of people,
evoking very strong emotions."

— Gil Snider, MD

That’s when their country music writing journey began. "When we were there in Nashville, we heard about a lyric writing contest and decided to give it a try," Dr. Snider explains. "We wrote a few songs on the trip between Nashville and Memphis and submitted them. We didn’t win, but we sure enjoyed the process."

They returned from their bus trip, lyrics in hand, and returned to life as usual. But six months later, a business visitor and their youngest son’s red electric guitar crossed paths to create an unexpected surprise that would launch Judy and Dr. Snider into the realm of a country music collaboration.

"We call it the red guitar story," Dr. Snider says with a smile. "About a year ago, we had a gentleman by the name of Billy Rae Stewart who visited our home on business. He happened to see the red guitar in our room over the garage. Being a music lover, he asked whose it was.

"When Judy told him it belonged to our youngest son, Billie Rae replied, ‘You know, I play guitar. My dad was Redd Stewart. He co-wrote The Tennessee Waltz," Dr. Snider continues excitedly.

In that moment of perfect timing, Judy shared that she and her husband had written some lyrics for a country song a few months back. Billy Rae, who lived in Elizabeth City at the time, read the lyrics and offered to collaborate on a project. "We were thrilled! We never would have expected this could happen," Dr. Snider enthuses.

Billy Rae took their lyrics and wrote the music for them, and he even hired Lydia Salnikova, lead singer for the Grammy-nominated band Bering Strait, to sing vocals. One year later, the poignant song If I Call a Name at Night was given life as a demo CD.

The song, a cross between pop and country, is one that touches the hearts of many, telling the story of trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. "We like songs that have very emotional, heartfelt sentiment to them. This song resonates with anyone who has lost parents, friends, siblings, or children. It’s touched a lot of people, evoking very strong emotions," Dr. Snider says.

Lydia’s smoky voice brings a powerful Stevie Nicks mood to a song of love and loss while a delicate piano melody carries the music. Although the single has been released as a country track, its potential is easily imagined in a variety of genres. And in the modern world of easy access for beginners to upload music online, this single delights as a surprisingly impressive debut project. Digital quality downloads allow the song to be heard in crystal-clear sound.

"Our dream for the song is to have someone hear the demo and like the music and lyrics enough to take the song and make it their own. It’s not really about becoming famous, although it would be kind of fun to hear it on the local radio stations," Dr. Snider adds with a laugh.

Now that the production of If I Call a Name at Night is complete, it seems that Judy and Dr. Snider haven’t seen the end of their songwriting days. "We’ve actually got another song that Billy Rae is interested in collaborating on and putting on his next album, and we have an idea for another song that we want to write ourselves," Dr. Snider reveals.

No matter what happens with their songs, Dr. Snider knows that he and Judy will continue in their creative endeavors. "It’s an opportunity for us to use our creative talents together, and it gives us something to talk about. As a physician, I can’t talk about my patients, so that limits conversation about my day at work," Dr. Snider admits with a chuckle. "Writing together gives us something to chat about."

When they opened their door to Billy Rae Stewart, the Sniders found they had unexpectedly, surprisingly opened their door of opportunity for creating country music that began with a contest in Nashville, and in the process found a creative outlet the two could share together.

The single If I Call a Name at Night can be previewed on Billy Rae Stewart’s website. It is available on iTunes and other digital music stores. The song is registered at BMI; artists and producers interested in recording it are welcome to inquire. Meanwhile, the Sniders are hard at work on their next breakout song.