Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Horn, The Metal Taco

[Begin reading with Eyes in the Back of My Head]

In the spring of 1992, I traveled to Bloomington to audition for horn professors Michael Hatfield and Myron Bloom. I had every intention of studying with Michael Hatfield, primarily due to various warnings against studying with Mr. Bloom. One concern was that I might not hold up well to his favorite word - NOOOOO!!!

Mr. Bloom called me only days after the audition to say, "I want you to join my studio." I was surprised, thrilled, and terrified. I countered with, "I applied for an assistantship, who should I talk to about that?" "You talk to me." Wow. He really wanted me. He saw something special in me, perhaps something malleable and trainable. At any case, Mr. Bloom kindly waited until our 2nd lesson to elicit tears.

I certainly heard the word NO many times in the five years I studied with Bloom, but less frequently than my colleagues. If you've ever watched the movie, Hilary and Jackie, think of Hilary's flute lessons where she is working on the Badinerie from Bach's Orchestral Suite No.2. Her teacher stops her so frequently and yells at her so forcefully that by jury time, she is hardly able to take a breath and blow a steady stream of air. Watching this scene made me laugh uncontrollably, although I did tear up from the familiar feelings.

I learned so much from Myron Bloom during those years and can confidently say that I survived. No, I take that back. I thrived. Bloom helped me realize my potential and I am a better teacher for it. He also once told me that if I wasn't going to buy a horn which I had be trying out that he would. So I bought the horn. An Elkhart M-Series Conn 8D from 1967, original bell intact.

During those years, I also performed with the Owensboro Symphony and the Evansville Philharmonic. On one weekend, I was walking across the street from the hotel to the concert hall in Evansville to perform in a Saturday night concert. Somewhere near the curb, I tripped and fell. My hands went out front and my horn in it's "gig bag" - aka "dent bag" - swung over my shoulder and hit the sidewalk hard. I'm pretty sure that the heel of my shoe caught on the hem of my long skirt as suddenly my right leg just wasn't where it should have been for that next step. Someone helped me up, I brushed it off and continued into the concert hall.

The fall certainly hurt a great deal and through the tears, I asked for an ice pack and some aspirin. Unfortunately the stage manager had neither of these items, but did want to know exactly where I fell. Gotta think of those potential lawsuits I suppose. My colleagues took the gig bag from my hands, traveled across the back stage area in a huddle, unzipped the case and immediately closed it. My horn had been turned into The Metal Taco. The mute which had been placed in the bell for transport actually kept it from being much worse, but it was unplayable in it's condition.

One of the other players, Lorraine, called a student to ask her to bring her horn to the concert hall immediately. So that's the horn I used, with my hands hurting like crazy and my head pounding ferociously. It wasn't until Monday morning that I was able to go into the Student Health Center to make certain that my left wrist wasn't broken. It hurt that much. X-rays were taken and the doctor diagnosed a severe sprain. Wrap the wrist, take anti-inflammatories, and refrain from lifting heavy weights.

Now readers, I already know what you're thinking. Foreshadowing of MS - foot not in place? Maybe, maybe not. After a week my right wrist had improved greatly but my left wrist had not. In fact it felt even worse. Back to the Health Center, repeat x-rays, doctor's orders for PT. That night a nurse called me at home to say that the radiologist had taken a 2nd look at the films. I had a 'hairline' fracture just above the elbow. My fall had broken my arm. The PT appointments had already been canceled and doctor's orders changed.

For years since this teeny fracture, my left arm has been a barometer of sorts. I can't even remember the number of times I told my Mom that "my arm hurts." Her first thought was, "is it the same arm you broke?" Well. Yes, it was. So I ignored the intermittent pain for years thinking nothing of it, but OUCH. These days my left arm is still a barometer, but of a different kind. And this time it is MS.

Next: Looking through Vaseline-Covered Glasses


  1. I am LOVING reading these installments of your journey with MS (as well as your journey...period!). Your writing is so descriptive and it is though I am watching a movie unfold. Thanks for sharing it!

    (and have NO fear...CHEESE will NEVER replace your fabulous Carnival Of MS Bloggers! I'm begging peeps without blogs to submit something rather than just keeping ME in stitches via emails)

    Linda D. in Seattle

  2. My partner fractured her wrist falling over a fan. It tells the weather evermore. I wondered about that taco.

  3. thanks for the telling about, metal taco. catch us brass suppliers

  4. I remember that concert when you fell, that really sucked!

    I also remember... "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Hahaha. We a pretty volitile relationship, Mr. Bloom and I, but I learned everything I know about how to play in a horn section (any part) due to those hours of Bach 4-part chorales in rep class. I told him as much when I called him from LA years later to thank him, and all he could say was "but, of course." That had me in stitches for a few days.

    Be well, my friend. I too struggle with RA but yoga seems to be my best bet these days... and diet.