Starting as an enthusiastic 13 year old wishful jazz player, I learned to play trumpet, then clarinet, then saxes, then self-studied Stainer’s Harmony. I’ve now accelerated through a most enjoyable musical spectrum to suddenly finding myself at 79 with a list of wear and tear which prevents me, one way or another, from making music.
The first big barrier installed itself in 2010 when I had to progress from legs to wheelchair. This not only meant my favourite instrument, the tenor sax, was too large and cumbersome to be able to play from my chair, but also that the venues where I could jam with others mainly had insurmountable steps and doorways. In frustration I eventually sold the tenor (a lovely Conn 10M Lady Face). But I discovered I could still play alto by sticking a piece of velcro to the bow and balancing it on my knee, and the straight soprano was easy enough. However, the development of Essential Tremors meant being completely unable to play my well loved clarinet as well.
With the proceeds of the sale of the tenor, I bought myself a viola, because I like the sound it makes – but very soon found Osteo Arthritis in my neck meant I couldn’t even hold it in the playing position. So I returned the viola and had it changed for a cello – a sound closest to a tenor sax but after 6 months trying to play, I realised the tremors made that impossible (the left hand fingering placement often jumped out of position) so I again sold it.
As I used to do small band arrangements so I do have an electric piano but again, the tremors make finger placement very difficult.
In disgust, I have put aside my negative prejudice and bought a guitar. Finding I’m slowly learning to play chords (I have a still intact good sense of rhythm) brings a little satisfaction but I’ve also realised that going back to my very first instrument brings dividends as it just needs just three fingers of the right hand and a developing lip. I’m not happy with the vibrato though and COPD brings its own peculiar problems.
The very worst barrier though is that nobody want to play with a musical crip!