For Bernie Stopak, singing a song can be as delicate an affair as performing surgery under a microscope.

"Singing is a high-profile thing, being on stage and the center of the attention," said Stopak, a microneurosurgeon practicing in the District and a vocalist who recently released a jazz album on the New York label Stash Records. "And during surgery there are many moments when, if I make the wrong movement, it would mean causing a stroke or death."

The abundant opportunities for inflicting mayhem on music caused Stopak to return to the studio repeatedly to rerecord his vocal tracks on the album, which features guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and pianist/arranger Stef Scaggiari.

With the help of four decades worth of maturity, and with the encouragement of his wife Carolyn, who is a negotiator for the Montgomery County Consumer Agency as well as a drummer, Stopak's childhood cases of stage fright have evolved into a personable modesty.

"I usually sing with a big band while people are dancing, so I'm less conspicuous," Stopak said. But in a more intimate recent performance with a four-piece band at Mr. Henry's in Adams-Morgan, he was the focus of attention. "I screwed up some of the songs," he said with a smile, "but at least I finished the show."

At that performance, to the amused delight of the audience of about 60, Stopak occasionally stopped the opening of a song with a laugh in order to repair some easily overlooked damage he might have done to the tune.

He saw a learning opportunity even in a well-received performance complete with an enthusiastically requested encore (one friendly jest of "just one more" was shouted down by his more appreciative fans). "I want to get a tape of {the Mr. Henry's performance}, and use it as an instructive thing," he said. That tape will join other jazz and neurosurgery tapes in his car, which is the closest thing to a composition room Stopak has.

"On my way from one hospital to another, I'll listen to my tapes, and sometimes a tune or song will come into my head and I'll start thinking about it," Stopak said. "I'll try to get these songs in my head down on paper." His album's two original songs, collaborations with Scaggiari, were conceived in traffic.

Stopak's Russian-born parents helped inspire his musical bent by starting him with a violin when he was 5 years old. He grew up in the Park View neighborhood in Northwest Washington, where his father owned the Sheridan Delicatessen and was a grocer.

Stopak performed with the Metropolitan Police Boy's Band, directed by the late Leon Brusiloff, and was in the Redskins band during half-times, spelling the often breathless and hapless team. While he was attending Coolidge High School, he formed a jazz band called the Young Moderns, and played saxophone and clarinet.

Even after years of lessons and practice as a child, Stopak did not acquire what could be considered a commanding stage presence. "I played the violin at my elementary school graduation with my back to the audience," he recalled. "I was too embarrassed to look forward."

Pizzarelli sees Stopak's initiative in recording the album as a new twist to the predicament of the amateur musician trying to channel a love of music productively.

"We have a thing in New York called Jazz at Noon, run by {business} professionals who get together on a Friday afternoon on 43rd Street and invite a few professional musicians to play with them," said Pizzarelli, who while performing in New York and Washington met Stopak and accepted his request that he play for the album. "It's the same sort of thing Bernie's doing; he wanted to sing and he did, and going out and making an album is going one step further."

Stopak's parents may not have intended it, but in a way their nurturing of their son's musical interests gave him a head start in his surgical career. "The dexterity I developed from all of my experience with musical instruments has spilled over into my surgery," he said.

After years of training and practice as a neurosurgeon, including an intensive 18 months and 680 operations as first assistant to the noted French neurosurgeon Claude Gros, Stopak has become comfortable with his approach to the delicate balances of surgery. Thirty years after his medical studies pushed aside his lifelong interest in music and theater, and four years after his youthful romance with music was rekindled during a jam session at a surprise birthday party, he remains cautious and circumspect about his singing.

"After we had finished the album, I made copies and sent them to all the musicians, because I just wasn't sure, and I didn't want to embarrass anybody," Stopak said. "They all encouraged me and said go for it, put it out. I said what the heck, and I sent a copy up to Stash Records." Record company owner Bernard Brightman liked the record and offered to produce it.

The album, which includes such standards as "The Way She Makes Me Feel" and "Old Devil Moon," and his two original songs, "Just the Beginning" and the title track "Remember Me," was released in October, and Brightman is in the process of sending copies across the country and overseas. Also featured in the album are Paul Langosh on bass, Chuck Redd on percussion, Hal Posey on trumpet and fluegelhorn, Tim Eyerman on saxophone and flute, Keith Kilgo on drums and Rick Whitehead on guitar.

Stopak's next step is to turn more of his traffic-born lyrics into recordings. "I want to do another record with more original songs," he said, adding that the arrangements are already in the works. "Stef is starting to put the music down for the second record."