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Tasha Miner

To Play Or Not To Play, That Is The Question

December 23, 2008 at 3:16 AM

This is my opportunity, and I might waste it, yet again.

I have been having difficulty playing for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time lately, due to a stressful concert day.  That day involved performing the Coppelia ballet 3 times on December 5th, and ever since, my left shoulder (which has always been weak) feels like it will dislocate if I play for a prolonged period.  I have dislocated my shoulder half a dozen times in the past decade or so.  Each time, the dislocation is so extreme it requires hospitalization and medications to relax my muscles enough to put my arm back in its socket. (Apologies for the graphic imagery.)

However, this is my holiday break.  I would really appreciate the opportunity presented to practice my heart out.  Have a "Paganini Session" like I used to.  However, fear of discomfort and possibility of injury are preventing me from doing just that.

I've had some uncertainty about my personal playing lately.  However, I played the Bach Chaccone for my jury, and not only was it my best jury ever, but my professors said that it was among the best performances of the movement at my university.  This is despite my fear of injury, so I know it's possible for me to "mind over matter" my issues.

I'm not sure if this is a health, mental, or physical problem.  Perhaps it's a combination of all of the above.  Regardless, I'm really hoping to take advantage of my recent discovery that was my violin jury, and use it to really take advantage of my time off this holiday season to advance my playing and confidence levels.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on December 23, 2008 at 4:16 AM


you said it. it is indeed,  `mind over matter.`

Someone with your talent can learn so much music simply by absorbing score sand vizualizing there is no need to go into manic Paginin phases.  However much they assuage some misuguided (?) inner need they are raely a sproductive as one thinks .It is actually harder to work with focus than do twelve hours.  (Although the greats are characterized by being ableto focus for that long at times ;)).

If you can do ten minutes of perfect practice you can own the world.



From Bill Busen
Posted on December 23, 2008 at 4:44 AM

The book I have been recommending to musicians with shoulder problems is "The Athletic Musician", co-written by a violinist and her physical therapist.  It has the best description of shoulder function along with its sometimes counterintuitive implications that I have found for musicians.  Various reasons you should have it:

I agree with Buri that, given what people are saying about you, you can profitably do more thinking about the repertoire you are studying, listening, and synthesizing, during the time that you should be moderate in your playing load.  Don't worry, that doesn't mean you have to be moderate in your love of the violin.  :-)

From Tasha Miner
Posted on December 23, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Thank you very much for your insightful responses.


I always use analyzing as part of my intensive practice.  I analyze the score, my part, and youtube performances, if I can find a good one.  These days, that's usually very probable!  It's usually 50/50 play/analyze.  That's how I take breaks from playing so that I can stretch and not ruin my body in an intensive practice session.

Your response once again makes me wish I had you as a teacher.  Thank you so much for your encouragement and caring words.


I haven't heard of this book, but I will certainly put it on my Christmas wish list, both for all the reasons you mentioned and because it could be part of my practice =D

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 23, 2008 at 5:25 PM

Good luck with your shoulder.  The advice you have received is good.  One more thing you should consider is seeing an orthopedist and/or a physical therapist who specializes in musician injuries.  A major symphony (Detroit?) can probably give you the name of whomever its members consult.  This doc or pt may be able to give you some strategies and exercises which will help minimize your problem and allow you to practice more.

From Tasha Miner
Posted on December 23, 2008 at 6:21 PM


Thank you for your recommendation.  I already have an orthopedist, and the only thing I could do to really fix the problem is cauterizing surgery.  However, I do have some light weight exercises that help and I do them.  However, I've already been doing those, so they aren't really helping to correct the new problem.

From Ray Randall
Posted on December 25, 2008 at 2:35 AM

I'd be temped to get the surgery and be done with it.

Are you sure some strengthening exercises won't help stabalize that area?

From Priscilla Purnick
Posted on December 25, 2008 at 3:12 AM


Being in the health sciences field, I would strongly recommend first a second and even a third opinion.  In fact, I would recommend going to an orthopedist who treats musicians specifically.  When I was injured playing sports in college, it really mattered *who* I saw because only the 'athlete' doctors were willing to do what was necessary to give me back athletic function in my knee.  It's the same with a musician's injury.  Only the doctors who regularly treat 'muscial' injuries understand what to do to help you be more functional.  It's important to understand that with doctors, one size does not fit all.  All orthopedists do not understand how to treat every injury properly (and by properly I mean 'how do I treat this injury so that this person can do what she needs to do?' )  Cauterization may render you less flexible and less able to play.  There might be other options that you need to explore.  Typically, going to a university setting (teaching hospital) , especially if you have a university known for it's music program or a conservatory nearby, is your best bet.  Ask the music department/conservatory who they send their musicians to.  If you are near an opera company or major orchestra, do the same.  Call and ask.  It will be well worth your efforts.   It worries me that you are perhaps not being treated properly and I would hate for you not to be able to play!!

Kind regards,

Cil Purnick

From Tasha Miner
Posted on December 25, 2008 at 4:18 AM


Thank you for your recommendations.  I have similar fears, and so have not gone the surgery route, nor do I really intend to.  However, my recent struggle has brought the issue back up.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on December 25, 2008 at 10:33 PM


I am so glad you are steering clear of surgery.

The comments above about the differnec ebetween sports and musican doctors also holds good for me.  A while back a greta violnist was trellign me that in order to avoid what is soemtiems considered a serious problem for violnists -raising the traps,  well known trainer of olympic medallists (forgot what area) had taught her to use a bio feed back machine to learn how to contract the upper back and bring the shoulder blades togethr . When you do this you cannot raise the traps. A

What a load of crock. At leats in At terms  one does not substitute one kind of useles sternsion to egt rid of another. If one wants to bypas  a misuse of the body opne simply starts a new habit.  The new habit being, you`ve guessed it, not raising the traps.  I was ratehr pleased to notic the amount of emphasis SDimon Fischer puts on expanding the upper back in his book `Practice.` Its the same point.  Lengthen the neck,  widen the back and one is free to play the violin.  Olmpic credentials counted for nothign in this case.  Especially when you consider that virtually every sports coach and specialist on the planet panned Mark Spitz` technique until he won seven golds. Silly man.



From Tasha Miner
Posted on December 26, 2008 at 12:09 AM


Excellent Olympic references.  In getting through my jury, I actually imagined myself as Kerri Scruggs with her broken ankle surviving that vault.  It gave me the motivation and focus to play through, regardless what was going on with my shoulder.

Thanks for your support,


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