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Ensemble Galilei performs at Dusty Strings

March 29, 2011

Carolyn Surrick, viola da gambist and member of Ensemble Galilei, gives Early Edition a behind-the-scenes look at why musicians do what they do and how important it is in their lives.  You can hear Carolyn and her colleagues on Saturday, April 2 at 7:30PM at Dusty Strings.  Tickets and more information can be found here or by calling 206-634-1662.

Two and a half years ago I fell. Changing a light bulb. I fell hard. When I hit the ground there was a moment of, “Maybe it’s not that bad,” followed by the realization that it was indeed bad enough to head to the hospital. My right arm was broken, both bones at the wrist.

“Surgery” the doctor said. “You need to see an orthopedic surgeon.”

There was a myth that was part of my life for thirty years and it went something like this: if someday, I stopped being a musician, I could do something else. I could go back to the restaurant business that kept me fed in my twenties. I could be an administrator at a performing arts center. I could teach musicology at a university and coach the Collegium.

But the next day, as I lay on the couch, waiting for the vicodin to take away my very painful consciousness, all I wanted was to feel a bow in my hand – the smooth wood, my fingers resting on the hairs, the resistance of the bow on the string. I wanted to hear The Fair Child. I wanted to play the melody once and then play it again adding double stops. I wanted to hear the dissonance and resolution, the room change as the music vibrated through the air. I wanted to feather the note at the end until the sound turned to silence. Instead I heard words in my head saying that I might never have a chance to do that again. And something inside of me broke.

It was days before I surfaced. I went for a second opinion and the new doctor was furious that they had put a cast on from my hand to above my elbow and when he took it off I understood why. All the muscles in my arm had atrophied. My beautifully muscled forearm was shriveled and tiny. It looked like the arm of a woman a hundred years old. My shoulder muscles were so weak I could not raise my hand.

I had the surgery – a titanium plate and twelve screws, and started physical therapy two weeks later. I could write the recovery protocol for musicians. Acupuncture twice a week, physical therapy three times a week, cranial sacral treatments once a week. Do the physical therapy exercises four times a day and ice afterwards. Move your fingers all the time.

Five weeks after surgery I played my first concert. And it hurt. Oh my god did it hurt. We were out on tour in Indiana and Iowa. I was so happy to be playing again, to hear the music, to feel the harp vibrating next to me. I was home.

I no longer think about leaving music. I cannot.

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