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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you practice, when you are sick?

May 1, 2009 at 9:28 PM

This seemed like a timely topic, considering the global panic over a mild strain of the flu.

Not that the flu -- influenza -- isn't always serious business. The illness causes some 250,000 to 500,000  deaths a year globally. But we humans don't normally shut down entire cities over it, so the events of this last week are curious indeed.

How much do we let all this get us down? Let's talk in terms of the violin. Let's say you do get sick. Do you try to practice, or do you go to bed?

Shinichi Suzuki famously told children, "You only need to practice on the days you eat!" I like this line, and I enjoy saying it to particularly young kids, who typically scrunch their foreheads, think for a minute, then open their eyes wide and say, "Wait, that's every day!"

But here's the caveat: If you are too ill to eat, you are too ill to practice. You only need practice on the days you eat.

But I've also had students who had such a fantastic running streak of practice days (every day, for more than a year!) that even if they had to roll across the room to do it, they'd get their fiddle out and practice at least a little bit.

How about you? Please vote, then use the comment space below for your thoughts on any of the above.



From Royce Faina
Posted on May 1, 2009 at 10:15 PM

It's a great divertion, it adds some sunshine in a gloomy day.


Posted on May 1, 2009 at 10:18 PM

I define sick as aches, pains and fever...

the only thing I practice then is sleepDuck.gif Donald Duck with Hat on face, sleeping, snoring hat flies picture by gurudevsk

From Richard Piatak
Posted on May 1, 2009 at 10:51 PM

I just voted 'no,' but that response isn't 100% accurate.  I do practice somewhat when I'm ill, but I tend to focus more on technical things (i.e. scales/arpeggios, etudes).  Not to say that repertoire goes on the back burner, but I believe if you're not fully engaged when practicing (which usually happens when you're sick) your mind can wander very easily ... not good if you're preparing to perform a concerto with orchestra, for example.  ;o)

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 1, 2009 at 11:02 PM

Yes I do the only time I didn't it was when I had my "dents de sagesse" (the 4 back teeth they remove to almost all the 18+) removed. My jaw was swollen and with infection.. so it hurted too much! It was more swollen when I tried to play.  But of course there is many kind of "sick".  If you vomit and go to bathroom every 5 minutes, don't approch your violin like this!  It's dangerous for it...


From Alayna Faulkenberg
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 2:42 AM

If I can stand up without falling over and walk to the practice room without collapsing I practice...

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 4:45 AM

I voted yes, but the truth is, when I am really sick, like with a bad case of the flu that forces you stay in bed and shiver and sweat and wish you were dead, then no, I don't practice.  My teacher excuses me for such lapses. 

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 5:58 AM

I voted yes and my rule is I am too sick to practise if I am too sick to go to work.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM

It depends on how sick.  If I'm coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose a lot it feels gross to touch my violin.  And for me, going to bed and sleeping, and NOT trying to do anything, is really the best way to get well.  I often don't feel like eating when I'm sick, either, so I guess the saying holds. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 11:46 AM

I'm not really sure what to think about the swine flu situation.  No, we don't normally shut down entire cities over the flu, but maybe we should, or at least should give infectious disease in general more respect and do more temporary shutting and slowing down in response.

Illness is a big problem in many workplaces, schools, and day cares, especially here in the Northeast US where I live. Workers often don't feel like they can take time off from their jobs when they are sick.  Sick time can be hard to come by.  Parents who work outside the home are often balancing on a house of cards that all comes tumbling down when someone--they, their kid, their babysitter--gets sick. 

I'm hoping that this situation serves as a kind of wake-up call that employers, schools, workers, and students really need to take the issue of infectious disease more seriously.  Back up childcare needs to be easier to find and more affordable.  Sick time needs to be more generous and workers need to be allowed to take sick time without fear of losing their jobs.  They should also have more flexibility about telecommuting, if necessary.  There is probably a role for government in making this happen.

From Laurie Trlak
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 3:08 PM

I voted no, but it depends. If I'm running a fever, probably not. If I just have a cold, probably. If I'm having a relapse of my MS, definitely not (for a variety of reasons).

Practice generally relaxes and refreshes me, but it also requires energy, which I don't always have, so there again, it just depends.

From Antonio Romero
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 3:36 PM

I live and work in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world.  Here, somethig quite unique is going on: the city has shut down because of the swine flu.  As a result, all entretainment, cultural, recreational activities are off.   My orchestra concerts , one of them featuring violinist Agustin Hadelich performing the Beethoven concerto got cancelled.   At  the school where I teach , classes are off as well. 

You might think, what a rare ocasion where I have all day long for many days in a row to do nothig else but practice!   Yeah right, that probably happened for the first few days but now I feel like I'm going crazy.  When a huge city like this one shuts down, a very creepy  feeling floats in the air.  Just try to imagine: everything is closed, schools,  restaurants, movie theatres, stores, coffee places, bars, pubs,  everything!  I'm bored to death.   I do practice but I also feel so discouraged to do so.   Practicing when you're ill?  Depends on how sick you are.  Practicing when you are bored, depressed, anxious, scared, trapped inside your apartment?  That's a real challenge.  


From Mili Leitner
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 5:27 PM

Yes, because sometimes we have no choice but to perform when ill. I try to think of it as good preparation for days when that happens, but usually lay off repertoire and just use technical studies, scales, Paganini etc.

From Barry Nelson
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 8:23 PM

I still practice when I dont feel well, but If I was extremely ill, I suppose I may miss a day

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on May 2, 2009 at 11:15 PM

It depends how sick I am. Right now I have a throat infection that's making my neck really swollen, which along with a fever and headache is making me not even bother picking up my fiddle. However if I just have a cold, I'll usually fight through it to get my playing in.

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on May 3, 2009 at 12:24 AM

The times that I've tried to practice while I'm sick it only made me feel even more sick, but that's probably just a lack of discipline.

From Ray Randall
Posted on May 3, 2009 at 8:12 PM

I've felt like some dead thing the cat dragged in the last few days and the violin was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. Went to the doc and he was worse than I was so while there he prescribed stuff for both himself and me. LOL. Like mine, it hit him extremely fast. It's a flu, but not quite. Did practice mentally, though, which can be very close to the real thing, mistakes and all.

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