We had the good fortune of connecting with Anton du Preez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anton, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Balance is an interesting question, since it’s different for everyone, and doesn’t have to be “equal.” I have had split passions forever. Music and medicine. Medicine and music. Which one? In my formative years and formal schooling, I focused on both. I lived both. I breathed both. Approaching the end of my undergraduate studies in 2007, I still couldn’t decide, so I joined the Navy, naturally. As luck would have it, and a bit of finagling, I was able to experience professional roles in both fields. And the rigors and toils of military training, the eternal bond of camaraderie, and the work ethic that strengthened my already strong importance for work ethic and perseverance instilled in a Midwest upbringing. Also, I’m gay, so there’s that even bigger life challenge to have to constantly prove myself to society as a welcome member.
A Doctor of Physical Therapy nearing his board certification in neurology.
And a certified therapy dog team (Didgie, an 8 year old Labrador retriever, is the most intuitive being we’ve ever met).
My balance has always been between the ebb and flow of my two passions. With years of trial and error, shifting experiences and places, advanced training in both fields, I am fortunate to have had a flexible balance between my work in music and physical therapy the past few years. Both fields are energizing and creative in their own right. Experience in one influences the other. With this perspective, it’s less about balancing two different careers, but existing in a malleable symbiosis.
Of course, my responses here didn’t include recreational and family/friend time, nor did I talk much about Didgie, but have no fear. They’re all a huge part of my existence.
Thank you for taking a little time to explore my world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Music has saved my life, time and time again. I’ll start somewhere in the middle, because it was the most life-defining. I enlisted in the Navy after graduating college because I could not decide whether to attend graduate school for music composition or physical therapy. I was also struggling as a closeted gay man growing up in Nebraska, so I enlisted under the SEAL contract, trying to stave off my inner struggle by pursuing the toughest thing I could imagine. I was in the best shape of my life and liked the challenging personal and teamwork aspects. But as my enlistment day drew closer, the veneer of adventure faded as I realized I would be trained as a stealthy killer, and that I would never be able or want to take someone’s life. It was a very long, grueling, and stressful journey to change my contract. But after working through months of red tape, transferring between training commands, and navigating multiple loop holes, I was finally able to audition. Once accepted, I received orders to the Pacific Fleet Band in Hawaii. My lucky stars were certainly shining, and I spent the next four years sharing music around the world.
It wasn’t the first time music saved my life. Growing up as a closeted gay kid in Nebraska, I experienced periods of intense depression and anxiety, not uncommon among people with similar histories. Though an observer might have concluded that my childhood and formative years were not that bad, I carried that secret burden from age nine until twenty three. I spent those fourteen years praying everyday to be straight and becoming extremely vigilant in my movements, mannerisms, vocal patterns, and word choices to prevent anyone from piercing my facade. I was fifteen when Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered just for being different like me in nearby Wyoming, and I could not even fathom being my true self around anyone after that heinous act of cruelty.
My father is also a musician and instilled the passion and importance of music early on. But it was during those years that I made the shift from simply enjoying performing and appreciating listening to music to needing it to survive. Music and poetry became my outlet for expressing the words and feelings I could not bear to share but could no longer contain. Music has such an astounding ability to simultaneously convey and elicit emotion to enhance the experience of life, and to express complex feelings with the vast array of tiny nuances or grandiose breadth that words alone could never express. And when combined with equally expressive lyrics, the possibilities are truly limitless.
My music tells the tale of my life and experiences. It has helped me build the courage to be myself, through the two chapters discussed above, and into my work as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. In my continued evolution as a composer, singer, and songwriter, I have written a lot about feeling out of place, lost, or alone. I have written extensively about love. The raw excitement for a developing relationship, the yearning for someone you will never have, the comfortable strength of an unbreakable and long-lasting bond, the obsession that can sometimes be all consuming, and the tender beauty of platonic or caregiving love. I have written about dreams and aspirations, hopes and disappointment. Trials and tribulations at a personal and cultural level. Empowerment, self-respect, anger, and fury. And I have written about losing a close friend when they still had so much life to live. These feelings and experiences can run the gamut from the mundane to the profound. With an ever-evolving experience in life and music, I love attending to the subtle differences and reactions to a chord voicing, the timbre of a specific instrument, and word choices to either give a specific intention or create space for individual interpretations. Much of my writing evolves as it progresses, whether from a personal to a group journey, from one dream to another, or reflecting the growth in a relationship. Life is ever-changing, evolving, contracting and expanding. As a reflection and investigation of life, music is vibrant, not static.
So, what sets me apart from others? Nothing. And everything. I am simply excited to still be here, in this world, today. I am excited to be able to pursue my two passions, music and medicine (as a doctor of physical therapy). I am proud that my chosen family and friends are always there to provide some insight, comfort, celebration, or reprimand from time to time. The beauty of life is the nuanced balance and variation between all things. I try to reflect this thought in my music. Through multiple life paths (read, genres), experiences (read, ensemble or orchestration), and constantly expanding emotions (read simply as such), my greatest joy in life is sharing and experiencing music. It is one of the few forms of communication that is universally understood and can stand the test of time. I hope to share this experience with you!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ok, I partially lied earlier when I said Dennis was my best friend. He is! But so is my brother. And one of my best Navy buddies (also a musician). So, this one day itinerary is for all of them (a week is too much to include here. Let’s play that by ear, shall we?).
0600 – Wake up to the dogs wanting a cuddle and breakfast. Run through a 10 minute yoga routine.
0615 – 1.5 morning walk wherever we are (Didgie used to go further but is affected by hip dysplasia nowadays).
0645 – A light breakfast and coffee at home, then off to a hike in the Verdugo Mountains.
1000 – Brunch at any place that has coffee, maybe booze if it’s a weekend, and a welcoming menu with keto and vegetarian choices. Dog friendly of course.
1130 – Beach time. Since there aren’t many off-leash dog beaches in LA, we’ll either go to Rosie’s in Long Beach, or take drive up to the coast to Arroyo Burro in Santa Barbara.
1330 – Lunch at one of the mom and pop Mexican restaurants nearby. The food is amazing anywhere.
1430 – What’s the temperature like? If it’s hot, let’s take the dogs home, then visit the Getty. One of the most incredible art museums in the world. If it’s not too hot, let’s visit one of the botanical gardens with the dogs, then take them home for their dinner.
1730 – Nearing human dinnertime. If we’re going to splurge, BOA Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. The wine director, Guy Sandin, is absolutely fantastic.
2000 – A few options now. Either a nice long evening stroll in Griffith Park (dogs with us again), a show at the Hollywood Bowl, or catch a film.
Whatever we didn’t get to today, we’ll get during the rest of the week. 😉
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This Shoutout is dedicated to my partner and fiancé, Dennis Swinford. We met right before I joined the Navy, and has been on this journey with me for 15 years. It’s his love and support that has helped me continue to grow as a person, a musician, a physical therapist, and global citizen. Dennis is my home base when I’m feeling overwhelmed, overextended, or like a failure. He is also my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and the first one to celebrate any achievement, big or small. He’s the love of my life, and the wind beneath my wings.
Photo 2 credit: Brandon Patoc