A Guitar Player’s Experience

I am sixty-five years old, and have played guitar for over 50 years. I was a recording and touring musician for over ten of those years, so it was puzzling and disturbing when three years ago my right hand started to spasm when I played simple rhythm parts. At first it was only occasional, but as it increased in frequency, I consulted a neurologist, and was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinsonism at 62. I have been taking Azilect now for the last two and a half years, and the progression of my condition seems to have slowed as a result. My concern, however, is that even with Azilect, I cannot play a complete song on guitar, as my right hand starts to tremor uncontrollably after a few bars. Dealing with this condition has been difficult, because playing music is and has been such a big part of who I am. While initially depressing, I determined that I would not let my life be defined by Parkinson’s. I found that I could sustain longer passages of songs if I played with an open hand rather than with a flatpick, so I have worked on developing this technique. More importantly, I found a recording device called the UX2 by Line 6 that allows me to record short pieces of music at a time and string them together later for a complete song, while sounding like the piece was recorded all at one time. I am working on a CD of original music that I hope to have completed by the end of the Summer. In addition to the rearrangement of my musical methods, I have also determined to find other avenues of artistic expression that are less dependent on a steady hand. I took some online classes in the UCLA Writer’s Program, and have just completed my first novel. When people learn of my condition, they tend to react with concern and sympathy, and ask how I am feeling. I tell them I’m fine. I wake up in the morning with it and I go to sleep with it each night, but it’s not who I am. Life is so much more than the condition of our bodies. It’s what we do and think and say. It’s the example we set for our families and friends. Parkinson’s is my opportunity to be a better, more compassionate human being. I’m going to take that opportunity.