Wednesday, November 26, 2008

End of a career?

Well, it happened again today. Being a professional pianist for so many years, I have always been intrigued by movies that feature piano scores. One of the most innovative was the music created by Dave Grusin for "The Firm". It is solo piano music and it just makes the movie come alive. I like to listen to the music whenever the movie is shown on television. This morning it was on the movie channel so I got into it and the next thing I know, I'm crying like a baby. I had to turn the show off.

There's no explaining it. Doctor says I have P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which according to comedian George Carlin, has changed from "Shell Shock" to "Combat Fatigue" to "Operational Fatigue" to P.T.S.D. Same affliction just different words. The best I can figure out is that it started back in early 1953 when I was chosen (or volunteered) to turn pages for a singer's accompanist who was performing on the campus at the University of Notre Dame (see my article on "Sight Reading at the Piano" April 28, 2006). It was my first up close introduction to a Baldwin 9 foot Concert Grand. (I find it very difficult just to write those words without choking up). It was then and there that I made a solemn promise to myself that was "Someday I will own one of these".

A great part of my life was spent in performing and finding the right concert grand was like falling in love. It was equivalent to my life with my wife of 45 years. Today I'm suffering with a very painful damaged rotator cuff in my right arm that is there specifically because I committed to performing a Gershwin program for all of my students and their friends and family members in 1990. I got the injury practicing "Rhapsody in Blue" for this performance on what would become my "dream" piano. I can't play any more because the emotional trauma of losing my lifelong dream to Katrina has made it so painful to sit at another keyboard and play I just don't do it any more. I don't know if I will ever want to play again.

It's a cruel trick of nature to saddle you with an affliction like this but what can you do except play the hand you've been dealt? If I had to perform to make a living I have already shown that I can muddle through by performing a few music jobs since I arrived in North Carolina three years ago. But I don't have to. We're making ends meet and I'm looking for some other means of making some extra money. Playing the piano right now is just too painful and to maintain my sanity and avoid the possibility of another heart attack, I have to stay away from it. After more than 60 years at the piano, who would ever have believed that something as bizarre as this could possibly happen in real life? Perhaps it will eventually go away but if it doesn't I'll just have to make the best of it.