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Serotones Hits a High Note

Four students standing near a poster that reads
The 2023-2024 Serotones Executive Board at Skaggs' annual org fair.

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From swing dancing to origami, there are hundreds of organizations students can get involved with at UC San Diego. In this ongoing series we’ll shine a light on a few of them. See who’s in the spotlight this time.

Though many consider getting an education to be a student’s job, most would agree it’s critical to make time to pursue your hobbies and passions. For musically-inclined graduate students in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the student organization Serotones offers a welcome chance for release.

“I was asked, ‘What do you do for fun?’ during my pharmacy school interview,” explained Jia Chen, a second year PharmD candidate at Skaggs and the president of Serotones, noting that she knew from the start that she wanted to continue pursuing music throughout grad school. Serotones, a classical music group that performs in healthcare settings, seemed a perfect fit. 

“Society likes to think of graduate students as studying all the time, but in the end, most people don’t want to be perceived as robots who are just there to learn and get out. We want to be able to destress and avoid burnout.”

Chen first learned of Serotones when she gravitated toward their table during a club fair for first-year pharmacy students last year. A longtime musician, Chen plays the flute as her main instrument but also picked up guitar and singing during quarantine. Music has always been her preferred way to let loose, she says—a sentiment clearly shared by others in Skaggs and beyond.  

The Story Behind Serotones

Serotones was founded in 2016 by a tight-knit group of pharmacy students with a shared passion for classical music. They noticed that, while Skaggs had plenty of professional and career organizations, it lacked a music-oriented group. Thus, Serotones was born. 

“We were really founded on the idea that music can be a healing force,” Chen said. “We’ve played around UC San Diego’s medical school, at Kaiser Permanente and hosted our own events with other organizations within the pharmacy school.”

Serotones performing at the San Diego Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2017 gala
Serotones performing at the San Diego Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2017 gala
Serotones performing at the Dean's Garden Party in 2022
Serotones performing at the Dean's Garden Party in 2022

Serotones also hosts an annual charity concert, Love Made Audible, at Price Center. During its first year, the concert raised over $1,000 that was donated to the Moores Cancer Center. Last year, the concert was live-streamed. Chen mentioned that this is her favorite memory with Serotones, saying that it was “really cool to hear myself sing with professional equipment and it was great to have the opportunity to be on stage again!”  

Looking Forward

Along with the other members of the exec board, Chen looks forward to organizing this event and other performances this year. While the organization largely is made of Skaggs students, Chen stressed that it is open to anyone who is passionate about pharmacy—undergrads included. Most importantly, she encourages everyone to recognize the value of music.

“I think a lot of people don’t expect the power that music has. It’s crazy how much power music has on muscle memory, memory deterioration, and well-being,” she said. “It’s often put to the side because of a focus on medication or clinical intervention, but the brain is a very powerful thing that responds well to a lot of different stimuli. Don’t underestimate music and its place in healthcare.”

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