Next to the stethoscope around his neck, Dr. Calvin Peters keeps a song in his heart. He likes to sing whether there’s an audience or not. This week, he’ll have one – a big one. The third-year resident in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is stepping on the national stage to appear on American Idol’sHollywood auditions, the next step after a successful earlier audition before the celebrity judges in Baton Rouge, La.No matter the outcome, Dr. Peters plans to keep song a part of his life beyond the hospital hours.
“Other than performing for charity and fundraising events, I would love to do some motivational speaking. I’m really wanting more opportunities to perform. I have always dreamed of my music playing on the radio, and I won’t stop until that happens! That would make me totally happy. It’s not really about being a superstar, I just really enjoy connecting with different people, whether that’s my patients or singing on national stages,” Dr. Peters said.
America’s singing doctor, as he’s become known thanks to Idol, has been good at both academics and performing since childhood. Adopted at about nine- months by his parents, who had lost a child during a drowning accident at a church picnic, Dr. Peters grew up in a tough Fort Worth neighborhood, but was surrounded by supportive family and friends.“I grew up in the most loving family. They are kind-hearted, community-oriented and driven to help people and their community,” said Dr. Peters.
Their positive outlook spilled over into his own energetic and optimistic attitude. “All the energy that I have, I just try to give it back and put it back out in to the community. I just feel like the more you give, the more you receive,” he said.By age seven, he was singing in his church choir with his high soprano voice distinguishing him from the crowd swapping the gospel notes for more classical training among choral groups as he progressed through school.But he also showed academic talent early on, shining as one of the top two students in his elementary school, leading to exams in middle school that eventually landed him in magnet programs for future medical professionals.
“I made good grades and I realized I could do well in anything when I really studied. I did well in math, English, foreign languages, even in Latin. I took this Latin class and I would perform these Latin oral dramatic interpretation pieces in local and state competitions and I always got the best actor award,” he recalled. “And I loved science. We didn’t have any money, so obviously we didn’t have a computer, but it was mandatory that all lab reports were typewritten. So I would pull out my parent’s old typewriter from the ’70s and some white- out and I would go to work! I knew that I had to get things done, so I just used what was available. I, then, discovered that you could go to the public library and use their computers. I think those things really set me up for success.”
At Hampton University in Virginia, he continued to burn the candles at both ends, keeping up his academics as he pursued his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, and singing in college chorale groups. But once accepted to UT Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Peters put his singing talents on hold to focus on his medical studies.
Then, during his second year in medical school, his mother died after battling cancer. A day after her funeral, his father had a massive stroke.
“It was about a month before I was supposed to take my boards. It was so hard. It was one of the most challenging times in my life,” he said. “But I feel empowered by it now. You realize you can keep going. You learn that you can go on.”
So after graduating from medical school, he decided to take up singing again. Because he had been out of practice for so long, he started gradually, quietly hooking up with a local band.“I sing all the time anyway, but I felt like my voice wasn’t conditioned enough anymore. So I didn’t tell anybody because I thought everybody around here would think it was silly, but I joined this cover band in North Dallas,” he said, eventually leading to private voice lessons to get a smoother sound. “So I did that, coupled with going to work every day and doing research, and it got to a point where it was starting to sound pretty good.”He had seen American Idol while completing an internship in Detroit and thought “I can do that,” but didn’t really pursue it until the Idol auditions tour stopped in nearby Louisiana.
“I had a couple of days off and I woke up one morning and I decided the auditions are tomorrow and I’m going to go do this,” he said. “I bought a flight that morning, got my hotel, checked in to Idol and auditioned, and it went really well. It was awesome. I even had a cold that day, but they just kind of loved my personality and my story.”
After his initial audition, he was voted by all four judges to proceed to Hollywood.
“This has been the ride of my life, its been so awesome” he said. “People have been going crazy on my Facebook.”
It’s that connection with people that really inspires him, both medically and in his entertainment pursuits.
Dr. Calvin Peters: American Idol 2013 Contestant
“I’m a person that truly loves people. I like to talk to people and connect with people, so physical medicine and rehabilitation is the perfect specialty for me. It’s the patient population that drew me in. These people are so amazing and they have the most inspiring stories,” Dr. Peters said. “When you see someone’s progress over the months or years, and they’re able to reintegrate with their families and life with the help you’ve given them, it’s amazing. It is so rewarding. To be a rehab specialist is the best.”
Dr. Peters hasn’t yet decided where he’s headed after his residency ends next year. The one thing he is sure of, is that this is just the beginning.
“I’m continuing to follow my heart,” he said. “I don’t know where that will take me, but I know I will let prayer guide me where I’m going to go. I’m not holding back and not letting anything get in my way, so we’ll see.”