Back on track

A band formed by people with schizophrenia offers therapeutic benefits and rich relationships.
Photography courtesy of

“Both schizophrenia and addiction threw my musical ambitions off track,” says guitarist David Baird.

Recently, though, playing in a band with others with schizophrenia has offered him long-term structure, rich relationships and the chance to perform in front of an audience.

The group, called Infinity, was formed by Baird and fellow musicians Susan Padilla, Anne Alter and Barry Mills, with support from Pitt psychiatrist K.N. Roy Chengappa and Flavio Chamis, a conductor and composer. Infinity has performed at the Pittsburgh Schizophrenia Conference five years in a row.

For Padilla, singing in the band allows her to express facets of herself that get lost in a mental health system that she feels sometimes reduces people to their deficits, rather than their strengths. “I enjoy not only the musical art expression,” she says, “but the interaction with all of those involved in making it possible for the group to perform.”

The group hopes to send the message that “a mental health diagnosis in not a sentence for a noncreative life,” says Chamis.

After schizophrenia initially took away her ability to perform, Alter feels she can now “fully live again.”

Says Alter: “Infinity has helped me infinitely, both professional and personally.”