Instructors in anatomy labs spend a lot of their work hours clutching a scalpel. But in his off hours, Linfield’s Chris Hernandez likes to trade his scalpel for an instrument of a very different kind — an orange Turtex guitar pick.
You would never guess it as he hoists a bag of frozen cat cadavers in his lab at Linfield, but he is simultaneously harboring a pair of seemingly incongruous dreams — becoming a medical examiner as his weekday gig and a professional musician as his weekend gig.
Hernandez, who graduated from Linfield in 2009 with a degree in athletic training, landed a job in Linfield’s anatomy lab in the spring of 2011. It’s ideal training for someone bent on earning his M.D. and becoming a medical examiner.
During the week, you can find him in the lab, wearing faded blue PF Flyers, a pair of Carhart jeans and seafoam green medical gloves.
Armed with a scalpel, probe and tweezers, Hernandez helps current Linfield students navigate their way through the masseter muscles of freezer-burned felines. He can brief students with consummate ease on the muscles that allow our mouths to masticate food.
Hernandez spends his weekends at venues like the Jackpot Recording Studio or the McMenamins White Eagle Saloon, playing guitar with Jack Ruby Presents. He can tune up his Fender Telecaster and churn out a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” with the ease that only comes with long experience and lots of practice.
The band consists of a coterie of Linfield students who first played together at a campus concert in the fall of 2007.
“We had all been involved in groups during high school,” Hernandez said, “and we were all kind of missing it.”
During Thanksgiving break of Hernandez’s sophomore year, Jack Ruby Presents went on tour, playing eight shows at venues along the West Coast.
“I can’t remember who it was now, but somebody was sick on the trip,” Hernandez said. “By the time we played our Wednesday night show at the Caldera in Ashland, the vocals were severely lacking.”
But the band went on to have a lot of success. As it experienced its fifth anniversary Oct. 25, it was also preparing for the release of its second album, “Pale Road.”
“Every once and a while I’ll get an email from a student who addresses me as ‘Professor Hernandez’ because they don’t know me in person,” he joked, “and that kind of freaks me out.”
Hernandez says that he enjoys “working with other people who enjoy what they’re working on and who they’re working with.” He also says that he has become more comfortable since he doesn’t know as many of the students in his classes, as he did when he first started teaching last spring.
As far as these two different parts of Hernandez’s life go, he says there is little overlap between them. He doesn’t see much intertwining of the two big parts of his life, but says that he would one day like to record a song with some lyrics inspired by his work with the human body.
Chris Hernandez is yet another representation of the dynamically diverse faculty and staff at Linfield College. Many have interests and passions that fall outside of their departmental designations. Hernandez, along with his band, performed at the Pro Cat Cab on Oct. 25 in the Fred Meyer Lounge, exactly five years after the band’s inaugural meeting.
Nic Miles for The Linfield Review
Nic Miles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org