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65y/o former full-time musician. I was in the US Navy music program for eleven years, studied with Joe Viola at Berklee and played in Berklee's top big bands. Dystonia needed my playing career.

I have committed to overcoming this issue, and I was wondering if anyone had success overcoming this issue.
 

· Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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Armstrong Heritage alto, Martin Comm III Tenor, Yamaha YTS-21, Altus flute
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I have not personally dealt with dystopia, but I have a sax teacher who underwent DBS (deep brain stimulation) treatment for his and is back to playing at full strength, or close to it. He played Giant Steps during the procedure. Kinda crazy.
 

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I know a trumpet player who had/has it. He basically had to quit playing for some time. He is back with his own group now but at that time, the term 'dystonia' did not arise - they called it a 'use injury' like he had done it to himself with too much playing. This is one of the scariest things I've heard of for a musician.
 

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Pardon my ignorance. Can you explain what this medical issue is and how it affects your playing?
It is an issue where the nerve signals are not processed properly. A few years ago, I participated in a study run by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. On day one, my brain was mapped during an hour or so MRI. The following day, my head and hands were zapped with electricity..thankfully without the need to puncture your skin like an EMG. What was determined in my case was that the nerve signals had no trouble "stopping" Like a car with bad brakes.

Generally dystonia can develop in musician's who are more kinesthetic as opposed to cerebral players. Also i can be triggered by a minor injury, excessive practice or a change of instrument. Even though I have a very good grasp of music theory and I know what to play over a V7(b13) I never started a solo with chord scales mapped out, I always reacted to the musical situation around me. So that clicks the kinesthetic box.

After a gig with Navy Band Newport, my hand got caught in the van door while we were getting reading to leave the gig. I broke two fingers on my left hand and could not play. I was the lead tenor player in the big band, and someone had to take my spot. By the time I was ready to come back, someone in the band transferred, I was asked to play alto. I tried to practice as much as I could, but I was still having issues. The band director thought I could play bari and keep it on the stand. I tried more practicing, but things never got better. So that checks of the minor injury, change of instrument and excessive practice boxes.
 

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Have you checked in with Berklee recently? Career-long wellness is a big focus nowadays, and some HMS clinicians are specializing in musicians' disorders--ENT surgeons treating singers, for example. If there is a musician dystonia clinic in Boston then the Berklee Wellness Center should know about it.
 
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