When Bad Things Happen to Good Musicians

Someone sitting at this keyboard has a birthday in September. So since this month is all about me, I’m going to write about what I love most – music. 

Every musician fears injury. Whether it be carpal tunnel, strains, or the dreaded arthritis, anything that causes pain is bad because it interrupts the natural flow and expression of the music. Andrea Avery was on her way as a budding classical pianist when she was diagnosed with a severe case of early onset rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 12. Yikes, right? For a while, she was able to continue going to competitions and practicing up to four hours every day (something I’ve never done. I think two in a row was my max.). But then her body started to rebel. Injury after injury—some minor, some major—kept her away from the instrument she loved.

She attended Arizona State to study piano, but switched to composition as her health proved too big a challenge. When she was unable to compose at a high enough academic level, she knew she was done in the music school. Luckily, she had writing to turn to in order to express herself. When I first saw this book, I figured it was just someone who wimped out. But Andrea was very willing to sacrifice for her music. Her body just wouldn’t let her. I can’t imagine having to give up such a big part of my life.

Our next guest, Min Kym, was also willing to sacrifice a lot for her music. Kym, a child prodigy on the violin, gave up her extended family and life in South Korea to move to London for her music. There was never really any question about what her life’s purpose was. She started winning international competitions at 11. At 21, she found her soulmate – a 1696 (yes, that’s the right date) Stradivarius, eventually worth over a million pounds. Kym’s career really started to take off with her new Strad and included several recordings and a potential world tour.

But all of that slammed to a halt when her violin was stolen from a London train station. As a pianist who has played decades of “Find a Piano to Play” I will admit that I don’t fully understand her pain. When I was in school I had my favorite practice rooms, and when those were full, it was frustrating. If I multiply that by a million, maybe I would come close to how she felt. To make matters worse, the violin was eventually recovered, but since she’d already spent the insurance money (to save her parent’s house), she couldn’t keep it. It was heartbreaking, but the end offered a glimmer of hope in an even rarer Amanti violin.

These books both made me cry, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t good. They were both very moving in their own way, but they made me feel like a slacker.

So now I need to go practice...but not for four hours.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

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