Sunday, June 14, 2020

Where did I go on FACEBOOK?

Dear friends and family,
Did you know that facebook jail is real, and that you can be put in it for simply posting too much in one day. hahahaha! 

Well it's true, and it just happened to me! I had just started a facebook page for my Musician's Dystonia and Injury Live Talk, and made a heartfelt video for the page. I thought I'd share the video to instrumentalist groups, and not just limit it to the musicians dystonia groups. Well, that's where I made an error. Was told it will take FOREVER to get approved to get back on.

So for now I'm a sitting duck....

That's okay! I was meaning to take a break from social media this summer anyways. I believe it was a sign (and this is just my own spiritual intuition here) from above that I've been doing too much online lately with the live-streams 2-3 times a week, publishing, and who knows what else just to keep my mind off things. 

I also think it's a sign that I need to go inwards and reflect on some of the things I've been avoiding; my feelings surrounding my split and move away from my ex-fiancee back in January of 5 years; and to really think and manifest what I want my future to look like. These are all deep things and take time. Nonetheless, I am optimistic about the future and happy to be surrounded by such a supportive community and family.

I've been doing things to help boost my endorphins! Currently I purchased a kayak and did my first paddle around a gorgeous lake in the Pacific Northwest. I saw eagles, wildlife, fish, and heard children laughing, saw people camping and building fires, cooking wonderful food. I felt the breeze in my hair and enjoyed sitting in solitude out on the calm water watching the clouds and listening.

I started hiking again too! What I love about the woods here is all the trails are covered by shaded trees, moss, and always a refreshing breeze from the ocean, or a scenic view of Saint Helen or Rainer in the distance. 

Even though I still have a lot of health issues and in pain, I've decided I'm not going to let it prevent me from doing what I love...even if I have to be a little uncomfortable. I will do so as safely as I can, but I'm not going to be a vegetable any longer unless post-surgery.

My hysterectomy surgery was finally booked and officially going to happen in July. The next few weeks I'm meeting with my PCP for bloodwork, and other health-related stuff; getting my back x-rayed to make sure the pain I've been feeling is related to my uterus/ovary stuff and not something else like a herniated disc, etc. Then due for pre-op meeting and testing for COVID (i.e. a requirement now before surgery), and then all ready to go into surgery the following week. 

Still no updates on when my hernia surgery will be. Most likely sometime after healing from the hysterectomy. It was getting frustrating wondering when my surgeries are going to happen, and I started to get frustrated. I realized so much of my life is out of my control right now as far as direction, career, love, where I'll live eventually, etc....many things I'm leaving in God's hands and trusting him to guide me intuitively, and place people in my life that can help me; and so far it's been working...I feel really supported and loved despite how much I've lost this last year; with the separation, and my mothers death, and my health issues, etc. 

As for the things I can do, that's what I'm focused on; health-related activities and my several projects (more on this later!!! Exciting stuff...). I've signed up to start working with a counselor on some baggage I've been meaning to get rid of too, and my doctor helped me get into a weight loss program. I'm starting weight-loss medication and working with a nutritionist and counsler on this soon. Hiking, kayaking, being outdoors, and enjoying the summer is what I aim to do until I have to go in for surgery.

With all this said, if anyone wants to get hold of me, just e-mail me at, phone or text.

I got a new phone too, so e-mail if the number you have doesn't work and I'll give you it! 

I'm around, just floating on a kayak and spending time with family. Oh! Playing music practices have been going fantastic (better than ever!!!!), and been going to brass quintet rehearsal every week. We have a few friends over every week now that Washington is in phase 3, so happy to laugh and converse with others in person again.

Much love and hugs to everyone!!

- Katie

Friday, May 8, 2020

Myofascial Release and Focal Embouchure Dystonia

Answering a question asked during a live-stream about how to do the myofascial release stretches/tissue work:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Musicians Dystonia Live Talks Playlist/Subscription

Hey everyone! For anyone interested in following my playlist of Musician Dystonia Talks, I'm uploading them to YouTube as I go along. Here is the link:

Sunday, November 24, 2019

(Video) Timeline: My Embouchure Dystonia Rehabilitation Over The Years

Time Stamps of Tests
0:04 - December 2011 - A year before this first clip, I couldn't get a sound out
2:15 - January 2012 - Tonguing Mid-to-High Register, Slowing Things Down
6:39 - August 2013 - Transitioning between Low and Middle Range Gap
10:43 - August 2014 - Downward Movement and Large Interval Control
12:18 - March 2016
13:11 - August 2017 - Fluidity in Slurs, Paced Arpeggios, Held Notes
17:09 - April 2018 - Crossing Multiple Registers, Descended Landings.
19:44 - August 2018 - Melodic Passages and Descending Landings
21:52 - January 2019 - Crossing Multiple Registers, Descending Landings, Ascending Landings, Dynamic Control, and Tongue Control
23:28 - May 2019 - Upper Register; Ascending Landings and Grasp, Stability in Dynamic/Sound
24:42 - September 2019 - Holding Out Notes; Testing Length of Grasp

By FAR one of the most embarrassing videos of my face....lots of closeups, while having dystonia over the span of several years, while aging, while rolling out of bed, while gaining and losing weight, while going into my mid-30's, and crazy life stuff in general.

Wanted to post this for those who have Embouchure Dystonia. Keep up your efforts...I know it may seem like a long journey, but you can do it! <3 I'm new to editing videos even though I post videos on my blog all the time have patience, will get better over time with practice.

This is the first timeline video I've done of my playing....approx 30 minutes. Please understand, even though I'm comfortable with showing my playing because I feel it's important and for a good cause, it doesn't mean I'm not vulnerable.

There's a reason musicians don't show this disorder upfront and why it's rarely documented thoroughly as such. Auff! 📯💔 Feel free to share though! I hope to spread Musician Dystonia Awareness.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Video Recording: The Subtleties of Focal Embouchure Dystonia

Video 1: The subtleties of FTSED. I'm testing/practicing holding out notes (straight muted) 
Video 2: The subtleties of FTSED. I'm testing/practicing holding out notes (straight muted)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Helping Others On This Journey

We're all in it together...

Mountain Reflection

"One day, the mountain that is in front of you will be so far behind you, it will barely be visible in the distance. But the person you become in learning to get over it? That will stay with you forever. And that is the point of the mountain."

~ Brianna Wiest

Art by: SpaceFrog
Blue Mountain Reflection

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 2019: Health Update

I don't think I've spoken about this on my blog because it doesn't really relate to FTSED. However, I thought I should share some news.

These last two years have been pretty tough on me physically. To make things short, in May of 2017 I started experiencing painful symptoms and found out I had miscarried. Yet the pain continued to progress....which correlates to what's going on now (posted much further below).

This previous summer I had my gallbladder removed, and due to all the medical tests leading up to it (that I haven't been able to do thanks to not having insurance foreverrrr) I found out I am dealing with a slew of several things.

First of all, since I had open heart surgery as a child, they had to do an ultrasound to make sure it's doing okay before I undergo surgery. They basically told me that I need to majorly improve my health or it won't be too long until my heart needs a stint or some type of work. They didn't say anything in particular was wrong but that this is something I needed to work on based on my overall health and the several things affecting me.

To make matters worse I showed up as anemic. And during surgery I was having troubles breathing....came to find out I have sleep apnea.

Then in late June I went to a physician to check out my reproductive health since all of this physical pain I've been in since 2017 finally got so out of control it got in the way of me being able to do anything. I stilled showed as anemic, and after doing a couple more tests and an ultra sound, turns out I had 2 large masses in my uterus. Due to my history, health, age, and ethnicity, that I am high risk for ovarian cancer. They needed to perform a biopsy. Well this took forever to get done because I had to switch providers and clinics, etc. So in July I was in so much pain that I begged for something to help lessen my symptoms. Was put on a different dosage of birth control, but it only lessened one of the symptoms, but for the most part I was still suffering, and started to experience vertigo. Then they started me on a different type of hormone drug that provided more progesterone and I cannot express how much my behavior/personality has changed. Although it's helped shave off 3 days out of the month I'm not going through this craziness.

Fast forward to September/now, I was finally able to get the biopsy this week. I will hear back soon as to whether anything is cancerous. The hysterectomy surgery is already in the books for late November. Still have some tests to do before then, but looking forward to not being in physical pain anymore. For now, I can only hope that whatever is happening isn't anything worse. Will update when I can.

All-in-all it's been extremely stressful and emotionally exhausting. I won't go into detail here, but just happy things are getting done and this will soon all be over with. That's all I've got for now. I'm holding onto as much hope as I can.

- Katie

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Beginnings...

I've been doing a great job of keeping my blog going this year. More so than other years. However, recently I was hired by the University of Denver Newman Performing Arts Center in Music Education Outreach and Engagement and excited to dive into my work there. In other words, I'll be pretty busy and not sure how much upkeep I'll be doing from here on out, unless there's a holiday break (I'll write then). I love my job so far and I'm just as passionate about it as I am about my focal embouchure dystonia blog. Thank you to those who have been following! I am still doing a lot of writing in progress for other publications, and will write more about that soon. I also have been working extremely hard to fit in all my spare time on exercise and my health (thus one of the pictures is of red rocks where I hike and climb stairs). I've been dealing with some pretty difficult medical setbacks and it's been a crazy summer filled with hospital visits, appointments, trying to find the right insurance provider, and affording it all. Hopefully I'll be back here on the blog soon. Until then, I hope everyone has a great start to their (academic) year!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Musicians' Well: Kristin Davidson on Dystonia: Another Kind of Recovery

From Musicians' Well website: Horn player Kristin Davidson shares details on her journey coping with Focal Embouchure Dystonia. Thank you Kristin for speaking out about your life, family, and love for music!

"...After injury you will become a completely different player....I would add that it is also true that in order to sustain yourself, you have to become a different person entirely."

Wow. That statement hits close to home. Can't tell you how deeply this type of setback changes a person. What I would give to be the former me - not just as a player, but as a person too. 💔

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Practice Time with Family!

Allie (my twin sister) and I are practicing at our old stomping grounds - The University of Northern Colorado, UNC! So many memories here!! 💕

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Point is to Understand

Similarly professional and advanced musicians know what it takes to play at their level/caliber, but very few understand career ending setbacks because it requires experience - having gone through the same devastating injury/disorder in order to help others.

This goes double for those who help others with focal dystonia because research has shown that the most effective rehabilitation strategy so far (besides DBS/brain surgery coming in at #1) has been retraining the sensory and brain pathways in order to restore motor skills. This is no easy walk in the park.

Who understands the process better than musicians with the disorder and professional neurologists who invest years of research into studying it? A neurologist who is dually a dystonic musician and medical professional would be highly sought after if one where to exist.

Because there is no known cure means that treatment is symptomatic. Just because there isn't a cure or etiology doesn't mean musicians with dystonia should ignore their symptoms.

I say this because I've had several brass professionals and teachers tell me and other dystonic brass players to ignore the symptoms, not get caught up in addressing individual symptoms and instead focus on musicality and air. There are so many things wrong with that advice I could write a book!

That's like going to the doctor and telling them, "I don't know what caused this cut on my leg, so please don't treat the symptoms/bleeding!"

There are a number of things that could have caused the cut, but what really matters right now is visually obvious. Even if the bleeding isn't successfully stopped all at once, we must attempt to and go from there.

If you look at any disorder or illness that doesn't have a known cause or cure (there are a lot), the only solution is to focus on alleviating the symptoms! This is important because finding ways to decrease the various symptoms (even if not a cure) leads to overall improvement and in return this increases the person's quality of life.

Treatment is not just about finding a cure. Treatment involves overall well-being of the afflicted person and giving them the tools to reduce their symptoms as much as possible so that even if they can't completely overcome it, they can come very close. In fact, enough to manage it and re-establish their love of playing again. It gives them hope. Most importantly they witness progress and it's through this process of understanding we learn more about how this complex disorder works!

We can't just throw everything we know about it as a neurological disorder out the window just because there is no cure yet. I say this because again, I have been told (along with other dystonic brass players) by professional brass players and teachers that due to there being no cure we should dismiss it as a neurological disorder (as if doctor's randomly labeled it focal dystonia for no good reason and none of the research and evidence means anything).

Do you think telling a musician with dystonia that it's all in their head is going to help when you don't even know anything about the disorder, have never had it, and you're just making assumptions and believe you're right because you've evading injury or due to your status/reputation makes you more qualified to give advice?

Let me tell you the quality of skill level and good habits in a musician does not make you less likely to develop dystonia or avoid an injury.

In fact, you are more prone to developing focal dystonia if you are healthy and at a high skill level - e.g. an established professional musician, advanced or highly skilled amateur, classically trained (e.g. a classical musician), natural, fast learner/have always excelled in your studies and playing, in leadership positions, at the height of playing level, male gender, middle-aged, have writers cramp or it runs in the family or dystonia does.

Telling a musician with dystonia to ignore the symptoms is ridiculous, or to stop retraining with another dystonic musician just because they are not a doctor is illogical (how the hell else are we going to gain any insight or move forward?). Equally it's unfair to tell them that no neurological rehabilitation method is worthwhile just because it's not a definite cure. The same goes for telling them to not try standard medication prescribed (for some it actually helps). And more aggravating is when others tell musicians with dystonia to not trust neurologists.

Yes, there are few neurologists who really understand it in-depth, but the ones that do are on our side and researching it because they want to help us. We must not forget that. We need them, and they need us in order to find answers.

By telling musicians with dystonia to avoid seeking the help of others who have it, avoid neurologist, ignore the research, ignore the symptoms, and only trust professional musicians who have never dealt with an injury/disorder is highly presumptuous, misinformed, dangerous, and just plain stupid logic.

Yet this is how things continue to be. Can't tell you how many times I've been told to go talk to "so-and-so" (insert name of random professional musician who knows nothing but how to give advice on mechanics, technique, breathing, or who tells me it's all in my head). It may be out of good intention but it's more harmful than helpful...and disappointing.

Stop with the assumptions, bad advice, and not giving musicians who actually have experienced career-ending setbacks and understand the situation credit.

Just like the treatment of most other neurological disorders, focal dystonia treatment must be individualized and requires great depth of understanding; not only from a medical standpoint, but from the viewpoint of the afflicted. Therefore, both sides (neurologist and dystonic musicians) must come together to create a holistic and cohesive approach. 💕