Sunday, June 17, 2018

Practice Journal: June 17th, 2018

I haven't had time to add some information on here about changes in my routine. Lately there's been three huge noticeable differences in my playing. 1st - I have shifted my mouthpiece to cover more lower lip than upper lip. 2nd, I've been having to do a ton of stretches - nose scrunches with the apples of my cheeks going upwards, and also moving the tops of my corners of my lips upwards towards my nose while scrunching my upper lip.

This has been tedious work because I can tell that the muscles near my eye that run down along the sides of my nose and to my upper lip are lacking control/sensation. It takes intense concentration to get them to do what I ask. I can pinpoint more clearly which muscles are limp or not around my face. Another area is my lower left lip; the muscle that runs from my lower left lip and my corner down through my chin lacks control, which I've been writing about working on. I have to use extreme concentration to practice moving those muscles back and forth while doing stretches. I find myself looking for muscles that don't want to move easily and put all my focus on those. A lot of the practice is scrunching and tensing my muscles and then releasing those muscles while looking in the mirror and being aware of what I feel.

I've started to feel strength building in my upper lip. For many years it felt dull, then it felt sore or weak, and then it felt like it could handle a little more and more over time. Now I feel it giving me signs when it needs a break...which hasn't happened since pre-dystonia. I will play for 23 minutes and it's that feeling of "okay, I need a break, my muscle can't handle much more"...when you try to exercise the day after you did a huge workout. I would stop and stretch constantly to relax and take breaks.

Lastly, I've been actually playing through some concertos. Nothing spectacular, but it's been helping me notice what signals are being sent to my brain in certain circumstances. For example; I can play a (going downwards) C, G, E, middle C, G, E,C....C arpeggio downwards......I can pivot down into my lower register with less difficulty, but if I start from the bottom of the arpeggio and go upwards, I struggle a lot with pivoting. I can tell that the opening of my aperture and the way I'm set is too relaxed and my muscles don't handle going from relaxed to tense very well, because they already overshoot into tense mode quickly. SO I have to play my higher C first and keep that setting, then drop down to my pedal C without changing anything and go up from there. It's a lot of manual work getting the ball rolling in some areas.

Anyways, I've been trying to remain optimistic and remind myself that being able to play through some concertos again or solos is a good thing. Like most others I assume with dystonia, it's frustrating to play a concerto that once was so easy, to find it is like a triathlon. The main thing is it doesn't sound bad on the surface, but underneath the hood, I can feel my muscles getting their workout and constantly adjusting to overcome challenges. It's nothing as bad as it use to be, and I'm glad that I can get through a concerto with more ease and finding that there are less and less difficulties. However, it still feels like there's a million miles to go. It's like driving your car for 10 hours and realizing half-way through it that even though you basically drove all day, you still have 10 more hours to go before you get to your destination. Glad to get so much done, but the work isn't done yet!

I won't give up, and like I've said before. If it takes me until I'm 98 years old to play horn in an orchestra again with 99% normalcy in my playing or at least have the smallest shot at earning my graduate degrees on it, I will do it. If I die trying, then so be it. Call me a fool or whatever, but I am stubborn and haven't given up yet. I've been through a lot worse than this and I know there's a way....even if it doesn't come in my lifetime, I at least I had the courage to start a trail of steps in the direction of possibly finding an answer for futre generations.

I also think moving in October will help me too. We're going to be looking at houses around Denver. I believe not practicing in a tiny apartment and instead in a more wide open room will help me practice more often too. I'm really looking forward to it. I've started traveling to practice rooms again around the city.

This summer I am excited to see my friend and horn player Thomas Jostlein and his family again! I have the energy outside of work to focus on the things I love most and that I can pour all my time and dedication into. I also need to consider other areas of my life, as it's undergone a lot of huge changes lately....I'll talk about that later! ;-)

Thank you for stopping by and checking in! :-) - Katie

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