William Kanter Woods – A Doctor’s Dilemma

William Kanter Woods

A Doctor’s Dilemma

William Kanter Woods makes music to bring joy into the world and to partially counterbalance the grief and despair he sees on a regular basis as a radiation oncologist treating cancer patients. Trying to make these two dramatically-different careers coexist is A Doctor’s Dilemma, also the name of Woods’ debut album.

“The physician-musician dichotomy in my life is like two forces on opposite ends of the spectrum, each affecting the another,” he explains. “On one end is the cold somberness of a medical profession that is markedly limited in its healing powers. On the other side is the unbridled joy and the soaring, liberating, positivity that music can add to our lives. I move back and forth between these extremes constantly. Sometimes, as a doctor, I develop a relationship with a patient that touches my soul and makes me grow as an individual. I then pour those feelings and experiences into my music. In turn, I find that I touch people’s lives with my music and make them feel good with the art I create At the same time, my music affects in me a level of spirituality which helps me connect with my patients. It’s an emotional circle for me — a continuum.”

Woods is a classically-trained pianist and keyboard synthesist whose first album contains 11 original compositions and features a hot mix of top musicians — additional keyboardist and producer Regis 8ranson (Will Downing, Alex Bugnon, Najee and others), drummer Bernard Davis (Steve Winwood, Kool and the Gang, Jonathan Butler, Will Downing, Alex Bugnon and Doc Powell), guitarist Rick Molina (Pete Townsend, John Lucien and Helen Reddy), and New York studio mainstay and road vet bassist Reggie Washington.


With these musicians, Woods worked to develop a contemporary “fusion~ sbyle that merges smooth jazz and a “quiet storm” urban sound with hints of classical, new age, funk and traditional jazz lightly blended in. Keith Zimmerman of The Gavin Report‘s Smooth Jazz Section has described Woods’ playing as “in the tradition of Alex Bugnon and Jim. Brickman, with a little more jazz ‘oomph’.” Woods’ album showcases his varied influences and his ability to compose and arrange many different styles of music.

Woods initially released A Doctor’s Dilemma regionally in late 1997 but by the fall of 1998, Fat Note Records (the label he had co-founded) had secured national distribution, and then launched a full-scale national marketing campaign including radio airplay, publicity, advertising and retail promotion. The CD already has received airplay on more than 60 radio stations nationwide.

The tunes on the album were inspired by both a wide array of life experiences and people who have crossed his path — a kayaker who saved Woods’ friend from drowning in Hawaii (“The Boatman’s Song”), the refugee daughter of a Cambodian General who was executed during the Vietnam War (“The General’s Daughter”), a patient with AIDS who was losing her eyesight (“An Eye for Awilda”), Chick Corea and Return to Forever (“Encounter X”), and a woman he met by chance on an airplane and “connected with” (“Tiphony”).

William is the son of a professional violinist, Lee Kanter, who played with Jimmy Dorsey, Leonard Bernstein, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and musicians at CBS. “My father bought me my first album, a Beethoven violin and piano concerto recording. His overwhelming enthusiasm for music rubbed off on me.”


William began playing piano at age nine. “Music was more of a natural language for me than the spoken word,” he remembers. “Initially, I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I began to improvise during my piano practicing and I soon realized that creating my own music was far more personally satisfying.” In addition to studying classical music, Woods began listening to rock’n’roll and jazz in his early teens. In high school he had a rock band that played at parties and dances, and he was a member of the school’s jazz band.

“My early musical influences ranged from classical (Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, George Gershwin) to rock’n’roll bands (Steely Dan, Talking Heads) to jazz (Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John Coltrane),” remembers Woods.

As a teenager he began studying classical composition with a teacher in New York. One day William showed up for his lesson and found the teacher had been murdered. In search for more tutoring, Woods at age 16 signed up for pre-college courses at the renowned Julliard College of Music where he soon participated in a recital of original works. After high school, Woods entered Princeton University to study music. In his junior year, however, he decided to major in geology instead. “I had a real love for minerals and hard-rock petrology. Something wasn’t clicking with my music. I wasn’t ready for it at that point in my life” He received a Bachelor’s Degree in geology and a minor in music. Having graduated during a period when jobs in the mining and oil industries were scarce, William turned back to music and began performing in the Metropolitan New York area for about a year. He also studied with Joanne Brackeen and Jaki Byard.

It was time for a change. After a series of eclectic jobs — running a furniture store, painting houses, teaching English to foreigners and silk-screening highway signs — Woods decided to seek out a path that would provide more intellectual challenge, strong human interaction and more financial stability. He chose the field of medicine. After a year of taking pre-med courses and working in labs at Rockefeller and Cornell Universities, he attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he got his medical degree. After graduation, William did an internship at Englewood Hospital (a “full circle experience” since that was where he was born and where his father died). This was followed by a residency at the University of California at Irvine and then jobs in Phoenix, Arizona, and Little Rock, Arkansas. After returning to New Jersey, Woods began to make music a priority in his life again and the compositions began pouring out.

“My medical career has given me incredible experiences that I translate into music. But more than that’ I learned about responsibility, humility, organization and accepting challenge. When i was trying to earn a living performing music, there were so many musical compromises and so much pressure that it took all the fun out of it. I was always more interested in composing and creating music rather than performing live. Now I have control of my music and my destiny, and it allows me to venture in any direction I choose. It’s exhilarating. Writing a strong, inspired composition is like a great love affair. You bring to it a lot of passion and it gives you incredible joy. No matter how you’re affected by the experience, it reminds you that you’re alive.”