July 2008

July 31, 2008 13:36

My lesson yesterday was HORRIBLE. The tremors in my arm and hand made bow-control impossible. Fortunately, my teacher, who is very smart, suggested that tension in my bow hand was making it worse. We spent some time adjusting my bow hold, and this morning I made my entire practice session about the bow hold, keeping my hand relaxed and my wrist very flexible. It made a HUGE difference. It was wasn't perfect. I will need to spend some time retraining my hand to loosen up. But I know if I keep at it, it will happen eventually. I'm using Kreutzer 1 & 4 in conjunction with this.
My IV infusions are done, and I will now start on oral Prednisolone for 5 or 6 days. I'm hoping that once the amount of steroid in my system has stabilized, I will see a decrease in the tremors. Right now I have so much of it in me (750 ml over the last three days) that my system is kind of hyper-stimulated, which is keeping me awake at night (but boy, do I have energy).
I'm looking forward to being able to control my bow arm better. I hope that happens.

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July 29, 2008 10:19

Yesterday I had the first of three IV infusions of SoluMedrol to treat the fatigue, tremors and pain that I've been experiencing, and I have to say, today is the first time in months that I have felt anything like normal. The tremors in my right hand and arm seem to have quieted as well, although I haven't yet had time to practice. This afternoon (in about 20 minutes) I will leave for the hospital to receive the second infusion. When I get back I will sit down and practice for a while, and see how things go. I wish I could have had the first one this past weekend. I played at the nursing home on Sunday, and it wasn't pretty. Fortunately, the good people there are just so glad for the entertainment, they even asked for an encore. My usual accompanist is learning to play cello, a brand new experience for him, and we played four Mazas duets with the second violin part transcribed for cello. He did a decent job, even though he's been playing for less than a year.
The down side of the medication (a hydro-cortico steroid) is that it causes me to be ravenously hungry, and to retain water (I learned from the manufacturer's website that it is used, among other things, to stimulate appetite in chemo-therapy patients, and boy, does it ever)! I can't afford to gain any more weight, but I'll just have to do what I can to maintain where I am right now. I feel so much better that it's worth getting a little fatter! :\ Oh well. I just hope it will make a difference in my playing. Tomorrow I will go early for the last infusion, and then my lesson in the afternoon. Keep me in your prayers, y'all!

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More frustration

July 13, 2008 15:07

Intention tremor in my right arm (due to MS) is getting worse and hampering my ability to perform. I played at church this morning, and it was awful. The tremor made my bow skip and scratch terribly. And it gets worse with any kind of nerves. I'm beginning to get discouraged, because this is something over which I have no control, which I can't overcome. I take drugs to minimize muscle spasms, and physical therapy may be of some benefit, but ultimately the disease will win in this regard. I'm finally accepting that my future as a professional violinist is no longer feasible (and that's a bitter pill to swallow). It just makes me so sad to know that at a time of my life when I've finally had the chance to pursue this life-long dream, it looks as though it may well be impossible.
I will keep playing, and taking lessons. And maybe I'll get a chance to play in a chamber group (although I'm still waiting to hear from the ACMP on my membership). It's just so hard to reach a point in your life when you have to modify or let go of a dream.

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Free Speech and YouTube

July 13, 2008 14:54

Laurie Niles' blog about the rude comments on YouTube left me feeling a bit like a mugwump: sitting on a fence with my "mug" on one side, and my "wump" on the other. What she said about some of the nasty comments on YouTube is all too true. They are uncalled for, and like her, I doubt that those posting those comments would have the temerity to say them to the faces of their victims. But Yixi made a good point also: such anonymous comments shouldn't have any power over us.
(Full disclosure here: I posted a YouTube video of me playing Brother James' Air last year, and while it wasn't my best performance, all comments have been quite positive).
I think that whenever one plays publicly, one is at the mercy of whoever is listening. In other words, if beauty is in the eye (or the ear) of the beholder, one must accept that some will absolutely hate the presentation, for whatever reason. Now, I'm not saying that this excuses rude, ignorant, bilious comments. In a civilized society, people should keep discourse as civil as possible, and that includes criticism of artistic works and performances. Criticism should be based on the merits of the performance/presentation rather than on personal attacks against the artist. There are many ways to say that a performance was not good without being insulting, and ad hominem attacks say much more about the attacker than they do about the one being attacked. But any time an artist does something publicly, he or she must accept that some people will not like what has been done. And in our society, we do have the right to say we don't like something that someone else has done. That is the risk of being an artist of any kind. Critics abound in any field, and people know what they know and what they like (or dislike).
Now, I agree with Laurie, that some vile comments are so destructive, so mean spirited (especially on the internet), that they should just be deleted; internet trolls should not be suffered anywhere on the web, and most forums have moderators who will ban those whose main purpose is to make trouble. YouTube and other sites like it are not forums, and a person can post something there without making it public (although I don't know what would be the point). If you do make your page public, you certainly have the right, and perhaps the responsiblity, to delete objectionable comments; the people who post such comments should not be engaged on any level, because they are not interested in any genuine kind of debate. However, solid, constructive critism, while painful, can help with performance. I think you *have* to have a thick skin to be able to do anything like performing publicly. You have to be able to stand back and honestly evaluate legitimate cricism for its merits. If you can do that, your performance ability can only benefit.

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Real progress, real frustration

July 7, 2008 04:31

This year has been really good for me artistically. I have made real progress in my playing; I believe I will even develop a decent spicatto! My bow strokes have improved to the degree that I can consistently produce a very nice sound, but I still have to watch out that I don't allow it to angle back over my left shoulder on the up-bow. And my vibrato could use improvement. So many things to work on, I wonder if I will ever feel that I am a good violinist?
One of my big frustrations, however, is not having an outlet for performance (other than church). Our city symphony folded earlier this year due to lack of funds (primarily because of mismanagement), and while I've heard that they are trying to reconstitute, I've heard nothing more. Really though, playing in the local symphony isn't necessarily what I want; I'd be happy to be part of a chamber ensemble or a string quartet, or even a duo. I'm not getting any younger. I hope (and pray) that I will have a chance to play in a group.

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