A few people have contacted me either here or on social media to ask what’s up with my arm- I’ve been posting pictures from rehab and expressing frustration with the various setbacks. I’d intended to make the “long and winding road” posts an informative explanation, but kind of ran out of steam- they weren’t read much, and each one left me tired and a bit sad afterward. I’ll probably finish them, but for now, here’s what you should know.

  1. I am ABSOLUTELY still taking students.
  2. I am ABSOLUTELY not taking ongoing gigs.
  3. My arm was getting better in MN, but as soon as I increased my playing to near-professional levels (say, averaging 90 minutes of practice a day and a gig here or there), the entire thing fell apart. I can now no longer play for more than half an hour without my entire neck, shoulders, and back seizing up, causing shooting/burning pains and weakness in both arms, as well as headaches. Such is the rub with thoracic outlet syndrome. It takes an average of 10 years to get a diagnosis (because TOS acts a lot like many other much more common maladies), and by the time they’ve discovered that your nerves and veins are being choked by structural (in my case, soft tissue) artifacts in your neck and shoulders, it’s too late for conservative therapies to be helpful.
  4. On October 20th, I’m going to have anesthetic injections into my scalene muscles in an effort to decompress things. As it stands now, any pressure on the area causes the pulse in my arms to disappear as well as sending electric shocks from my neck to my fingertips (fun!). If this works, we’ll shoot the same area full of Botox a few weeks later to deliver more long lasting results. The next step is scalenectomy, which is just as gross as it sounds. Let’s hope I can avoid that.
  5. I will never stop being a cellist and being actively interested in teaching the instrument. For now, however, I am not going to count on being able to play for any length of time. As such, I’ve been considering a number of other directions I could head in, and have decided to explore winemaking and the science of viticulture. There’s a program at UC Davis that is considered one of the very best, and if you’d like to help me with the $9000 tuition (or upcoming medical expenses) as a donation or in exchange for some lessons, I would be so grateful.
  6. Last, I’m working on hosting a retreat, hopefully at Wellbourne in Middleburg VA (pictured above). It would be a 3-4 day cello intensive with 6-8 participants and 2 faculty, with daily lessons, time for reflection, small group practice, some gentle yoga, and delicious dinner in town each evening. If you’re interested, please contact me, and I’ll keep you informed, as well as send polls to make sure the curriculum is perfectly tailored to the participants. With any luck, this can be a several times a year event!

Yours, as always, in cello-y solidarity,



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2 Responses

  1. I recently started taking from Emily over Skype. As a middle-aged adult, I felt like my progress was glacial and my sound horrible. Emily is exactly the kind of teacher I was looking for, she doesn’t let me move past mistakes (preventing deeper entrenching of those habits) but still manages to almost make me feel like a musician and might one day be able to play the cello with a sound I can be proud of.
    I am grateful to have found her and highly recommend trying a lesson from her if you are looking for a teacher.

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