Monday, April 3, 2017

April: Important Embouchure Dystonia Research Articles, Information, and Videos

MRI Horn and Brass Repository Project (MBRP)
Dr. Peter Iltis is currently directing this research project in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Gottingen, Germany) and the Institute for Music Physiology and Musician's Medicine (Hannover, Germany). The goal of the project is to research and find ways to restore function in musician's with Embouchure Dystonia, and also find ways to prevent FTSED in general. If you are interested in more information, please click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page for Dr. Iltis information. Also if you would like to donate to this important research, there is a link on his webpage as well. Currently the International Horn Society executive committee encourages fellow musicians and horn players to support this research if can!

Here is a video of Dr. Iltis speaking in a new video posted on facebook about the research project. And here are further informative videos over his current research below:












American Academy of Neurology Podcast: Sensorimotor Overactivity as a Pathophysiological Trait of Embouchure Dystonia
An interview with Dr. Bernhard Haslinger about his paper published on sensorimotor overactivity in embouchure dystonia.

Activity and Topographic changes in the Somatosensory System in Embouchure Dystonia
I believe I've posted this before! But here is a more condensed overview of this research publication by Tobias Mantel MD, Christian Dresel MD, Eckart Altenmuller MD, Claus Zimmer MD, Jonas Noe MD, Bernhard Haslinger MD ( <-- Who was speaking in the previous podcast link above).

Allegro: Foundation is Created to Assist Musicians with Dystonia
This is an article from the year 2000 when Glen Estrin and Dr. Frucht founded the Musician's With Dystonia Foundation. It has Dr. Frucht's contact information, and talks about how they assist musicians with information on how to get health care coverage, and where to go when they need a diagnosis. "Dr. Steven Frucht of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center Movement Disorders Clinic may be reached at (212) 305-5277...for further information regarding Musicians with Dystonia Foundation, send e-mails to musiciandystonia@aol.com."

Clinical and Epidemiological Correlates of Task-Specific Dystonia in a Large Cohort of Brazilian Musicians
This is a general study on focal task-specific dystonia in musicians around Brazil. The study was conducted by Rita C. Moura, Patrcia Maria de Carvalho Aguiar, Graziela Bortz, and Henrique Ballalai Ferraz. 49 individuals were diagnosed with FD (mean age 26.4 years; 92% male). The instruments most associated with FD were acoustic guitar (36.7%) and brass instruments (30.6%). They concluded that Brazilian FD music players were mainly male, classical music professionals, around 30 years of age, with arms, hands, or oromandibular muscles affected. They end their study by stating that Musicians Focal Dystonia should receive more attention from musicians, teachers, and health professionals.

Worlds First Focal Hand Dystonia Patient in Japan Treated with Focused Ultra-Sound (FUS) Enabling Musician to Play Again
I was quite interested in this and contacted Nadia Scantlebury at SunnyBrook about a current focused ultra-sound study that was going on in Canada. Unfortunately they are only letting Canadian citizens participate. However, she did mention that there is a focused ultra-sound research study or trial going on at University of Virginia. Here is a list of all their current trials going on with focused ultra-sound! If interested, you can contact them directly.

From Embouchure Problems to Embouchure Dystonia? A Survey of Self-reported Embouchure Disorders in 585 Professional Orchestra Brass Players
This research was conducted by Anke Steinmetz, Andreas Stang, Malte Kornhuber, Marc Rollinghoff, Karl-Stefan Delank, and Eckart Altenmuller. "The final publication is available at link.springer.com.

Music and Medicine: A Research Model
These are slide presentations by professor Karendra Devroop of the School of Music and Conservatory at North-West University that cover a variety of music performance-related injuries, disorders, research, knowledge, and statistics. I highly recommend reading it, as it covers a wide variety of very important information we can all benefit from as musicians. Raise awareness!

Review: Music, Motor Control, and the Brain. By Eckart Altenmuller, Mario Wiesendanger, and Jurg Kesselring. 
You have to have a Jstor account in order to read this! Easy to sign up, and easy to access this article, as it is a free read. I highly recommend a Jstor account anyways!...so many articles and quality information.

Carmine Caruso Method Adapted and Taught by Julie Landsman
Last, but definitely not least!!! These are some of my favorite videos to watch. I actually use the freebuzzing/mouthpiece buzzing exercise video in rehabilitation, as it helps me a ton!!!

The Recovery
Freebuzzing and Mouthpiece Buzzing
The Six Notes
The Harmonic Series

Carmine Caruso Method: Introduction with Julie Landsman

Note Tasting

Noodles

Spider

Intervals

Dynamic Studies

Low Register

Snakes

Thursday, March 30, 2017

(Video) Focal Embouchure Dystonia and Playing Other Instruments

When you have musician's dystonia, a lot of friends and colleagues try to encourage you to find another instrument. Let me tell you, that isn't easy, and for a number of reasons. First being...nothing can come close to the love you have for your primary instrument. For me, horn is the best, and everything else doesn't come close. Not that I haven't given other instruments a shot. I grew up learning multiple instruments. Guitar is my second love, and it also doesn't come close to horn.

I enjoy practicing on other instruments, and I have to because I'm a teacher! However, my embouchure dystonia still effects me on other instruments to a certain degree. Some instruments are easier to play (i.e. trumpet, flute), and other instruments harder (i.e. tuba, trombone, euphonium). But just because some of the instruments are easier to play, doesn't mean I have the chops to master the instrument even if I wanted to. 

I want to show you what my embouchure looks like when I play other instruments. I don't talk much in the videos; except on the trumpet and trombone one. I think it is good to show how my focal dystonia still effects my playing from instrument to instrument. I can still  play to a certain degree on each instrument, but only if I focus on less tension....which means a more relaxed embouchure formation, and not stabilized at all. I show this really well on the trumpet video and explain it in detail. 

Anywhoo! I will be adding a flute one on here soon. I wasn't able to record one with flute because I forgot my instrument at the school. I also will be adding some video recordings of my horn playing within the next couple days. I captured these on my phone, but the horn ones will be on my nicer/fancier blog video camera (yes! I have a special camera I use only for my blog). 

Let me know what you think of my new blog layout (should I go back to the previous design?), and if these videos give any insight. I'm not sure if these videos can show much...but I still think it's important to post them and analyze them, as not many people post recordings of themselves playing other related-instruments while having focal embouchure dystonia! :-) 

(Clarinet)
(oboe)
(Trumpet)
 (Trombone)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January Updates: Miracles, Sadness, Grief, and Planning

My last blog post was about my employment with El Sistema Colorado. We were told it would end on February 2nd, which is this upcoming Thursday. Then a couple days ago we had news of a miracle donor coming forward and helping support us so that we can finish out the year. I can't even begin to  explain what a relief this is and how extremely grateful we all are to continue on! It was such shocking news that none of us have really processed it yet...we had already announced to the students what was going on and why we had to end. I still have no idea how much money it took to keep our organization afloat, but I'm hoping that we can better plan ahead in the future, or at least that the teachers will be allowed to be a part of the fundraising process/efforts, so that way we feel like we are contributing to meeting our financial goals. That's my biggest hope.

In other news, a relative has passed away today and I am trying to figure out a way to help my twin sister and her husband in this time of need. I'm also going through financial hardship at home, but we're hoping this long season or drought will end soon, as the politics are enough to deal with currently. I'm worried about my friends and loved ones, and especially my biological family who might be effected by the immigration blockage going on. My twin and I will be okay because we went through naturalization and earned U.S. citizenship when our parents adopted us and filed the forms, etc. It's been a stressful month/year to say the least though. 

I will be making more of an effort this next month to blog, so that's somewhat good news. Will be posting some videos of my playing, as I haven't for a very long time. Things are feeling good as far as my embouchure, but haven't had much time to practice. If anything, I'm practicing a lot of oboe and clarinet since I teach them a lot. However, I did get a great horn student and I'm thankful for many reasons, including that it's helping me play my horn more often.

Reading the articles on Alex Klein have inspired me and given me hope. Like him, I suffer from pain...or more like irritation after I play too much. I keep fearing pushing myself further, but I want to now make more of an effort to while also keeping my health in mind. I know that I can do it if I pace myself and properly take care of my face/lip after playing. Like Alex, I will continue easing the pain/irritation through constant care afterwards. 

For now, that is all the news I have. I hope that everyone out there is doing okay among all this turmoil in the U.S. currently. Take care fellow musicians. 


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Goodbye ESC


Following my last blog: Colorado Gives .....

Sorry I haven't had time to update my blog in forever. This is why....I've been working like crazy to balance all the areas of my life; especially work/finances. I currently work for El Sistema Colorado, American Music School, Taylor Robinson Music, and I just got a sub-license. All of this to keep my head above water this year.

All I can say is that some things in life are inevitable. You try your hardest to avoid it, but even when working with a team to prevent things from ending, sometimes they do, nonetheless. 2016 has been tough. Last year in January of 2016 I received the news that two of my co-teachers who lead the 4th & 5th grade brass and woodwinds class with me were being laid off. That was tough because all of a sudden I was alone three days before the first day of classes started and feeling like I had lost a great team. Part of why I love El Sistema Colorado is because we co-teach most things. It's so much more effective and the students feel like they are surrounded by a family of teachers dedicated to them. It was hard, but I made it.

On top of that we ended our year a month early. Coming into this year I received a phone call in the August of 2016 asking if I would like to continue with ESC as a teacher, but only offered 16 hours a week (I had 32 last year) since there wasn't much funding, no lesson planning time paid for, no instrument maintenance time, no staff meetings, no core-group/nucleo meetings, no pre-concert planning meetings, and strict time on hour limits, no instrument repairs, teachers could only work a certain amount of hours at a concert at the beginning of the year, no paid-out time ...no accrued vacation hours, no benefits this year...whereas last year we had all of this available. The pay rate would change depending on what us teachers where doing; one pay rate for lead teaching, a different one for assisting, another for meetings and concerts. I was also told that there may be a possibility that the brass & woodwinds program I teach most likely would be cut in January 2017.

I said yes because despite how gloomy it sounds, I love this organization so much, and it is my livelihood! I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I ended up with more hours due to another teacher declining a position, so I filled it and went up to 21 hours. I also started teaching private music lessons on the weekend to fill in more hours.

Right away we had a lot of teachers leave. Most of them had excuses such as moving, getting a full-time teaching job elsewhere, or too many gigs, a lot of them were actually upset with the way things were heading, or scared of getting laid off. I worked hard since August to try to get another part-time job encase things got worse. I even advocated to keep the brass & woodwinds program going at Garden Place Academy.

In November 2016 we received an email asking about ideas for next year; example - should we move to salary positions, should we hire all teachers on as full-time in order to receive benefits, should we move all after-school programs to one hub?, etc. We received the same questions last year as well...so it seemed that maybe things were getting better since they were asking us this. That's at least what I assumed.

But then early December 2016 we received a letter saying that our after-school programming at all three schools was ending two and half weeks early due to not enough funding. As teachers we vented to our lead teaching artists about how we didn't feel included in anything. Why can't we fund-raise as teachers? Why is it just left up to administration or the board? Why can't we be included on information about the organizations finances? Why are we left out until it's too late to do anything? Why are we told to promote matching grants a day before they are due? or just sent a link to Colorado Gives in order to try to fund raise? Isn't there more we can do as teachers? If someone would just help us organize a fundraiser for our nonprofit, we'd do it, even if it meant not getting paid. I'd work overtime on no pay just to get the organization back running. We all would if it came down to it.

Finally we got a little bit of answers; that our organization's start-up money funding was winding down, and that it generally only covers about 4 years, and we are into our 4th year of programming. On top of that our organization grew too big in a short time. We expanded to serving three schools in Denver. We're one of the best El Sistema organizations! We also didn't have an executive director for over a year, and they had to rebuild networks and partnerships, etc.

The administration and board worked tirelessly to send out letters to donors to get funding, etc. At least that's what we were told. But still, all of us teachers feel like things are always so ambiguous. I understand that keeping a nonprofit afloat is not easy, but communication has always been an issue. Every survey we filled out that asked what our organization could improve on  - at the top was communication.

Then the worst news came two days after Christmas (Yes, literally yesterday!)  my boss called me and informed me that the board has decided to end El Sistema Colorado programming on January 31st due to lack of funding. In-school programming starts January 9th, after-school January 16th, and then we end the 31st. Literally only 3 weeks, and we're done for the year .

It hasn't really hit me yet. Neither any of the LTA's saw it coming either and it's a huge blow to all of us. Every single one of us has to drop things and find new work if we haven't already got a second job lined up. There's nothing like being laid-off three weeks into school. I was told that the board hasn't approved up ending in January 31st quite yet, and that they are trying to push the funding out further through February at the latest. They are trying to push whatever money they have left to Bruce Randolph High School since it needs the most. So I was asked if I would consider staying on board for after-school programming there if that's what ends up happening. I said yes.

I luckily just received my Sub-Authorization through the Colorado Department of Education. So hopefully I can pick up subbing hours. Also waiting on to hear if I get hired for a part-time band director assistant position I applied for not long ago. I also opened up more of my private lesson schedule hours.

I'm not writing this in anger, but in sadness and disappointment. I love ESC and we are all hoping and praying that the board or administration, or whoever is in charge (now that they let go of the executive director as well) raises enough money to start El Sistema Colorado programming again in August of 2017. For now, we wait and see what happens. It's more devastating having to say goodbye to all the students and explain to them why they might not see us again. It's really hard. But if asked to go through this again, I'd say yes. So many of us would because we put in all the blood, sweat, and tears; our all into making this program great.

I posted the photo of a broken bridge because it's how I always am left feeling when a path I expected to be on for a long time comes to a short end. I'm not sure what's ahead, and as sad as it sounds, I'm actually use to it, so I feel I have the strength to move forward. As I said before, rising from the ashes is what I do best. Music is my purpose and calling, and no matter what happens, I will find a way to teach it or continue on my music path in one way or another. It's who I am, and who I'll always be...a musician who knows how to persevere despite all setbacks.

If you would like to help, there are only 2 days left until Colorado Gives ends...and that is our last resort for funding. You can find the link here: https://www.coloradogives.org/elsistemaco

#help #elsistemacolorado #changinglivesthroughmusic #heartbroken

Monday, December 5, 2016

Colorado Gives!


Link to Donate to El Sistema Colorado

Tomorrow is Colorado Gives day and goes on until December 31st. This is an important time of the year where many nonprofits receive donations from people all around!

In my case, I am hoping my workplace El Sistema Colorado receives enough money to keep our program continuing. We are an organization that brings music education into schools (currently 3 schools) that are low income and have at-risk youth, and that can't afford music education.

I LOVE this job because I see how deeply impacting it is on our students and their families. We provide in-school and after-school programming, homework time, snacks/food, recess, choir, instruments, ensembles and private lessons, and tons of support for our students well-being.

We work hard to establish strong relationships within the surrounding community and with the students parents. We provide several performance opportunities. Our students have performed with the Colorado Symphony, at Red Rocks, and a handful of students go on to audition for Denver School of Arts. More than anything, we care about the wellbeing and development of our students as a whole.

We use music as a way to give them a well rounded experience of an art; what it means to be a musician - to promote teamwork, hard work, musicianship, expression, passion, leadership skills, to develop fine motor skills and the complex process of making music (involving reading music, reading rhythms, understanding their instrument, and listening to those around them, etc.), to take responsbility for oneself, to care for others, and most of all to work together as a team towards a common goal/ art.

Last year I unfortunately lost two co-teachers due to budget cuts, and this year I almost didn't have a job. All of us teachers took a huge paycut and loss of hours. Many of our teachers had to leave in order to make ends meet. Part of it is because we lacked an executive director for over a year. Our organization is only 3-4 years old and it blew up into a great organization too fast (expanding to three title 1 schools); and now our startup money is trickling down and we're left with trying to keep up with expenses.

I  really love this place and it is my calling, passion, and livelihood. Please, if you are willing to donate, even a single dollar goes to continuing our cause!

Link to Donate to El Sistema Colorado