mahler symphony, or a C major scale?

My practice materials lately.

Yesterday marked the first day that I was able to play anything on my viola for a period of time measurable in minutes rather than seconds. It was both a relief and a stark reminder of how far I have to go. There will be questions of how my instrument is set up to deal with, both in terms of the chin rest and the shoulder pad. I may have to go higher with the chin rest, and lower with the shoulder pad, to relieve pressure on the clavicle, but I may adjust – the left clavicle is a bit higher than it used to be, and that will take some adjusting to. Overall, it is good progress, which I will be steadily building on. I remarked to my wife after I was done that it felt like playing an entire Mahler symphony, not a simple three-octave scale! I am truly missing being at work with all of my colleagues, and also want to get out on my bike again before the weather really turns to the rainy season. These are two powerful motivators, as is my diminishing sick leave balance!

progressing, but slowly

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Two days ago, I got cleared to do three things by my doctor: sleep without my arm brace, drive a car, and put my viola under my chin. All three items were sources of major relief.

Day one of viola: put the viola under my chin and noticed that the should rest did not contact my collarbone. Fist pump! Also noticed that I couldn’t raise my left arm high enough to reach the fingerboard. Sad trombone!

Day two of viola: was able to reach the fingerboard! W00t! Could only reach the upper two strings due to being unable to rotate my elbow far enough under the viola. Meh.

More to come…

back to school, only not

This past Friday the Oregon Symphony began its 123rd season. I, however, did not begin my 24th season. Just over a month ago, I broke my left collarbone in a cycling accident. That’s old news – you can even see my X-rays (before) here and (after) here. Tonight, I’m going to the Oregon Zoo to hear the first concert of the symphony season, and I’ll be doing it from the audience side.

It’s strange to be at home, not ill from some sort of virus or bacteria, or on personal or relief leave, while the orchestra is working. But the fact is that I am not even allowed to hold my instrument in playing position at this point, never mind make a sound with it, get my stamina back, get my left hand calluses back (!), and the be able to practice my way back up to an acceptable level of performance. Those are all things that I’ll have to do before I can return to work. Unfortunately, the time it will take to accomplish all of these interim goals on the way to full recovery is going to take longer than I’d anticipated. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed.

I’m someone who likes having things to do, and as a musician, I prefer to be just a bit busy rather than having much free time on my hands. Now, I’ve got nothing BUT free time. Recovery is proceeding, however. I’ve started PT sessions this past week, and am doing my exercises three times daily. It’s pretty amazing how tiring these seemingly trivial movements can be – and at times, downright uncomfortable! But that’s a lot like what practicing a musical instrument can be like. Some days you move forward, some days you move backward, and overall, with care and guidance, you move ahead. Wish me luck!