Local Dentist Jake Jorishie Returns to TU for Music Degree

Contributing Writer

MUSICAL DOC: By day, Dr. Jake Jorishie, pictured with writer Ayn Robbins, is a dentist, but in between appointments he is working to complete his bachelor of arts in music at his alma mater, the University of Tulsa. The first time around, Dr. Jorishie didn’t take any music classes, but he participated in all musical outlets he could, from the marching band to a saxophone quartet.

ELIZ HOLLIS for GTR Newspapers

“Have something upon which to fall back,” most parents would advise, “before embarking upon a career in music.”

That’s sound advice and exactly what dentist Dr. J. W. (“Jake”) Jorishie, Jr. did. Before heading to dental school at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., the multi-tasking student earned a degree in zoology while earning up to two thirds of his undergraduate college tuition in the music department at the University of Tulsa.

“I didn’t take music courses (in college),” Dr. Jorishie says, “but I played in all the music ensembles, orchestra, the jazz band, saxophone quartet, the marching band.”

He finds parallels between music and medicine.

“A lot of health professionals are very good musicians. It says something about the numbers. Maybe it’s the math connection between both music and science. Music, when you really study it, is very mathematical.”

Dr. Jorishie has the grizzled exterior of Paul Bunyan. How those hands and fingers are going to “tinkle the keys” on an 88 is something to ponder, much less how he is going to get his hand in a patient’s mouth to extract a wisdom tooth. Sit across from him in conversation, and one is quickly disarmed by his gentleness.

“Passion,” he says, “has been the driving force behind everything I do and ever will do in life.”

There are three “passions” in Dr. Jorishie’s life: Church, athletics and music.

After dental school, Dr. Jorishie served in the Navy on a supply ship and received advanced training.

“Not very glamorous,” he smiles. “We served the fleet. We didn’t shoot guns. We shot the breeze.”

Dr. Jorishie returned home following military service, opened his dental practice and then began to open his heart. He is a passionate supporter of the University of Tulsa athletic and music departments. He still knows the “drill” and was guest conductor of the Golden Hurricane marching band at TU Homecoming in 2006. Director of Bands Kenneth Grass considers Dr. Jorishie the honorary director of bands.

What makes his a “man-bites-dog” story is that “Dr. Jake” is back at TU over three decades later as a student again, this time to earn a degree in music with a jazz emphasis, which he will complete later this year.

While practicing the piano, formally, he is falling back on his dental practice. Five days a week, he crisscrosses between his office and campus. His profession not only enables him to pay the bills, it enables him to “pay it forward.”

“Everyone can make a powerful difference,” he says. “You can change a life at a time. You need to give people a chance. Get hooked on giving. It’s extremely addictive. It makes your life worth living, getting up, going to work every day.

“I do all the dentistry for the athletes. They need protection and care. I love being around those kids.”

Tulsans are likely to find Dr. Jorishie’s name listed among contributors whenever it involves TU athletics or the music department. He has also established scholarships at the university.

“I would probably not have been able to go to the University of Tulsa unless I had the help from them, and I always remember that. I’m a big supporter of athletics.”

His office is brimming with sports memorabilia worthy of a storefront. He has signed basketballs, footballs, photos, collectibles from the Liberty Bowl and magazines from years gone by. An obvious hero is basketball great Coach Nolan Richardson, who led the University of Tulsa to the NIT championship in 1981.

One wall bears an 8×10 glossy of the Blues Brothers and a smaller, curled snapshot. Upon closer scrutiny, one discovers “Jake” is actually “Dr. Jake.” Close friend Dennis Boone is Elwood.

“Back in the ‘80s student music was on the brink. They (TU) had some curriculum changes, and we lost a lot of music majors. Our marching band was down to a flatbed trailer with about a dozen musicians on it. It was really disheartening to me.”

It took a lot of hard work from dedicated faculty and supporters to turn things around, but they did. Then in 1987 Jake (Dr. Jorishie) and Elwood (Boone) blazed through the Assembly Center, grabbed a locked box with the game ball inside and transferred it to the brand new Reynolds Center, arriving in a convertible where the box was unlocked and the ball was put into play. Dr. Jorishie gleefully recalls the thunderous reception from the TU basketball fans, marching band and cheerleaders, which left the TU-Blues Brothers totally uninhibited. They evoked a frenzy with their antics and soul-blasting music. That night Dr. Jorishie played the National Anthem on saxophone.

“I give a talk to all the athletes at the beginning of every year,” Dr. Jorishie says. “I tell them, ‘Take advantage of the opportunity from someone who’s been there, done that.’ I tell them, ‘You know, I played at the University of Tulsa. I played in the band!’” He smiles.

Come this December, Dr. Jorishie will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from his beloved University of Tulsa.

Even more than his profession or any of his degrees, it is Dr. Jorishie’s inspiration as a human being that leaves one with the biggest smile.

Updated 02-20-2008

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