Journey Interrupted Update #1

One week ago today I underwent reconstructive surgery on my left thumb. I appreciate all of the prayers and well wishes I have received.

I have a pretty substantial cast on my left hand and a pin in my thumb. I will have a cast and pin for another three weeks or so.

I have taken this time as an opportunity to explore literature I never would have even considered; music for the right hand. I knew there was not nearly as much written for the right had as for the left hand, I surprised how little has been written for the mano destra. I did find an Etude by Alkan for the right hand which is from a set of three etudes, one for the left hand, one for the right hand, and then the last one for “hands reunited”. While the piano is more idiomatic for left hand only music, this Alkan etude is a marvelous piece of music. It is very melodic while simultaneously demanding significant virtuosic skills. As with the limited amount of Alkan music I have studied, I have found it to be challenging yet not from being needlessly awkward or full of un-pianistic passages. Everything fits very nicely under the hand; it just requires a good deal of skill to execute up to tempo. I have very much enjoyed the few hours I have spent with Op. 76 #2.

Yesterday I even managed to play a few notes with my left hand while working with a student on an easy Haydn Sonata. It was a bit awkward with a three pound cast on my hand but I encouraged by the complete lack of pain which is something I haven’t experienced in that hand for several months.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Rule #5 Prioritize

One of the greatest lessons a student can learn in the course of learning to play a musical instrument is the importance of prioritization. In every weeks assignment there are greater and lesser difficulties and higher and lower priorities. Learning to order one’s work so that the maximum is accomplished with the greatest efficiency is one of the keys to success in life. Musical study provides a microcosm where you can learn this lesson.

Each week there are some items which are critical for immediate master (recitals and contests provide these nicely) and other items of less importance. Learning to address the critical without neglecting the less important is a life’s lesson we all can revisit.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Rule # 4 Hard Stuff First

As a river will seek the route of least resistance, left to our own devices we will do the same. It is much more pleasant to play music which is easy from either being not very challenging or has been previously learned. Trying something new or especially hard requires much more discipline than playing a piece learned many years ago.

This also applies to difficult sections within a piece. A difficult passage may require four, five, ten or a hundred times as much time and effort as the rest of the work. If that extra effort is not made, the passage will never become as easy as the rest of the music. Unless it is attacked early and hard it will always be the weak spot within the larger work. We all know where these problem areas are; if we start with them and work on the “hard stuff first” the piece will progress evenly and quickly without the constant drag of the “hard stuff”.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



A Journey Through a Soundboard

My hand surgery is two days from now. I gave up trying to make my left hand play the piano over a week ago; it simply can’t do it anymore. I am trying to keep myself distracted from my impending challenges, but I usually fail.

However this afternoon and evening I lost myself in the smell of spruce and feel of fine wood dust on my skin as I began building a new soundboard for a customer’s piano. The hours slipped by unnoticed as I first laid out the dimensions of the new ribs and then began the peaceful process of measuring, cutting, sanding, cutting, and sanding some more. There are few more satisfying feelings than working with a chisel sharp enough to give you a very close shave as it cuts through a maple piano rim as if it were basswood. So for a few moments, as Maria Tipo played through Bach’s Partitas, I went to a place of calm and peace.

Two months ago I played a recital without any problems and now I am unable to play at all. This reminded me again how we must live our lives in dependence and submission to our Father. We may think we know where we are going and what will allow us to live a well lived life, but tomorrow you can lose everything. If after Friday’s surgery and the two months of recovery, I am unable to play in the manner I have become accustomed to, will I be able to accept it as my Father’s will? After all I have been playing for over 40 years! I was hoping for at least another 25 or so, I have my best years ahead of me. Yet, in the words of our savior, “not my will, but thine, oh Lord.”

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



The Jouney Interrupted, a Voice Silenced

This is a post I hardly expected to write. About 6 months ago I closed my 8,000 piano retail and rebuilding shop. I shrunk and moved my business back home; planning on an idyllic semi-retired life. I planned on working about a half of a day and getting back to all the practicing and performing I had put off most of my adult life. I did get started and then something happened to derail my careful and much anticipated plans. I have lost the use of my left thumb due to rapidly growing arthritis.
Surgery is scheduled for this Friday to remove the arthritis which has locked my thumb half way under my palm and to reconstruct the basal joint.

I played a recital in early February without even a hint of a problem. By the end of February I knew something very serious was happening because I had lost about half of my mobility by then. I met with my surgeon who laid out my unpleasant options: do nothing, periodic cortisone injections or surgery. The first two options would do nothing to restore the function in the hand. So there really was no choice in the matter. I had hoped to last a few more months before I had to have my hand cut open, but by the end of March I had lost virtually all movement and had to quit playing altogether. My voice has been silenced.

My surgeon assured me that this procedure has become pretty routine with good results. While that may be true, it is not routine to cut open my hand. I have much fear and trepidation as I contemplate what may happen as a result of this operation.

To say that this has been disappointing and stressful is the understatement of the year. I have learned again to rely upon my faith in God’s purpose and the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life. I will continue to write and share my experience through this ordeal. I would dearly love to hear from anybody who has been down this road themselves.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com