Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day

Happy July 4th! At least here in Seattle it looks like a perfect day. Today, I'll celebrate my personal independence of having no boss, other than my immediate family members, including Seymour the kitty. But those kind of bosses are a pleasure and give life a meaning.

A friend sent me an article that appeared on July 1st in
the Guardian. In it Susan Tomes, pianist in the Florestan Trio, talks about how musicians in Europe view the possibility of raising their mandatory retirement age (which is low compared to what our colleagues are used to on this side of the big pond). Take the time, click on the link and read the story.

Here are two excerpts:

  • Of course, a great artist who is loved by the public can afford to show the vulnerability of old age. But most musicians live in fear of the least sign of degeneration. A doctor attached to a symphony orchestra told me that almost all the players who consult him about physical problems beg him not to let their secret get out, because they know that there are plenty of other musicians waiting to take their place.
  • Playing a concerto with a Swedish orchestra last year, I was amazed to see a box of earplugs by the door leading to the stage. It's unfortunately telling that orchestras should need to wear earplugs to protect them from the sound they're making - the very sound the audience has come to hear.
We need to discuss openly about all the physical (and emotional) damage our work as musicians causes to our bodies over many decades. Personally, I can't even count the number of steroid shots given to both shoulders for tendinitis and bursitis, or the battle with multiple shingles outbreaks that have caused havoc in my nervous system. I'm still taking a drug for post-herpetic neuralgia; the last outbreak a couple years ago spread to my fingers and I still have residue pain from it. As it stands right now, I wouldn't be able to withstand the physical demands of an orchestra job. Being a fool, I didn't use my sick leave when I should have. Our bodies tell us when rest is needed. The human body is not like a machine that can be tuned up time after time; spare parts don't really exists. Ideally, I should have been able to go on disability; however, it was decided otherwise.

For those who have little children: please have them get the chicken pox vaccine. Although the disease itself is just a nuisance for a child, Varicella Zoster hides in the body and is ready to strike again as shingles. The pain from that can be horrendous and almost impossible to treat. Get it on your face and you can lose your eyesight or hearing. In my twenties, I couldn't bear the weight of a shirt during my second outbreak: students came to my house for their lessons with a topless teacher for two months. But being Finnish, they didn't think anything of it.