Parkinson's Movement

Any former professional musicians out there with PD?

This illness is hard enough for the "ordinary" person, but for someone like myself who was a concert violist, and has PD, it is more than an inconvenient truth. It is not only inconvenient, and a truth, it is also an IMPEDIMENT to playing music the way I used to be able to do. I understand that it is not easy for anyone to have this dreadful condition, but I don't yet know any other musicians with it, so I am inquiring as to who may be suffering in the same way I am. I am looking for a specific kind of support, I guess.

I am a violist and have a tremor with developing bradykinesia in my right arm and hand. This makes bowing very frustratingly difficult. I realize that I have to accept this malady, but I can't get the same results and satisfaction from playing any more and wondered if there are other Parkies out there in the same boat. Playing music has always been a refuge for me. ;-l

19 Replies

I an a retired church organist. I'm 81, and playing the organ is completely out of the question with PD. I appreciate your saying that playing musc is a refuge for you. It was for me too.


Hi Owenbob,

How long have you had PD? I am 59 and was dxed in'09. I'm hanging on so far to my "refuge", but it has gotten more difficult to draw a bow and make a pleasing sound.


J.G., Only this morning I was remembering your recent disclosure that you are a concert violinist and thinking how difficult it must be find you have talent, to spend countless hours perfecting that talent, then have it taken away by something over which you have little control. I hope you can find a solution.

Wishing you well.


I realise how awful it must be and many people have also lost the ability to carry on with the things in life they enjoyed.

I did wonder if you could not teach and bring a little of that magic to other peoples lives.

Surely you still have so much to offer?


It is difficult to teach without being able to demonstrate - although there are some beginners who can benefit - students need to see what is required to learn on several levels.


I do, and can teach, but I am new to this area and am having a hard time establishing myself as a teacher of viola or even as a musical coach of any instrument, really. I am also an accomplished violinist, which is the instrument I started with. I know that I still have so much to offer, and am constantly trying to come up with a solution. Music is the centerpiece of my life and although I surely can always be a listener, I miss dearly being a participant in the performing of it.


Hi Jane Look up Barbara Thompson on U-tube. She is amazing. I can understand your frustration. I am not a professional musician, but I love to sing and had a reasonable voice and did some solo work. I'm afraid that Parkie has certainly taken its toll there and I miss it. But, hey, I can still enjoy hearing others who are much better.


Hi so sorry for you it is another realisation of loss, my husband used to play saxophone, taught in army school of music, he does occassionally get it out but finds it too frustrating to carry on, it gathers dust as we speak, but have not the heart to part with it. Yes could you not teach as oldtyke suggests you still must have something very positive to pass on , take care


Yes..what a loss. Two degrees in Vocal Performance, 9 years with Syracuse Opera ensemble. Thirty years as a voice teacher and coach, prepared and conducted over 20 shows. 10 years singing with children. I am watching my piano skills wane....

i've lost my true lifetime best friend.

"Something inside has died and I can't hide and I just can't fake it - it's too late"


I was diagnosed with Idiopathic parkinsons 3 years ago and cannot tolerate any medication. I am an amateur jazz bass player and find that my co-ordination as suffered and have had to revert to playing bass guitar. I am retired from my day job and playing jazz is a great way to forget my problems.

I just hope I can continue a bit longer.


What is idiopathic parkinson's?


I can't think of any but one of my instructors at the JCC Parkinson's exercise program in NYC is a professional ballet dancer who started dance class for pwp. She's inspiring. Are you on Facebook? there are several pages for pwp's. Hang in there!


I have played drums most of my life but never professionally. It has been too frustrating in the last year to try. I am now starting the DBS process and if it succeeds I might play again.


Idiopathic Parkinsons is a form of the disease which cannot be tied down. They do not know how to treat it hence they cannot give me any medication that works. My symptoms are freezing when walking, speech degradation and poor writing. What is the DBS process?


Wikipedia defines idiopathic like this: "Idiopathic is an adjective used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause…" I think most PD is idiopathic, although sometimes it is caused by exposure to pesticides or anti-psychotic drugs.

My dx is idiopathic PD [although there is an enexplored and unexplained genetic component] and I benefit from sinemet, azilect, and exercise, like so many others.

As for the music question, my dad was a first chair symphonic woodwind player for 50 years. His PD showed up after he retired. He had to give up performing. Then he stopped practicing and unsentimentally sold his instrument. He says he doesn't miss it. "let the other guys do the work." he once told me.

I am a serious amateur in the Afro-cuban folkloric style called RUMBA. I was never technically proficient as a conga drummer and I am beginnng to lose what little dexterity and speed i acquired. I limit myself to playing the easiest parts but I sing better than ever. Not pretty, but clever and appropriate. Somehow, even though I have that PD symptom of speaking too quietly, I can sing plenty loud. That makes me a valuable member of the ensemble, and I enjoy myself immensely. I have also written RUMBA songs in English and SPanish to raise awareness and to relieve my own angst, and I have taken these songs to stages in several countries, where they were well received. The songs also allow me to tell my audience why I am shaking, since being in public exacerbates my hand tremor.

I am fortunate to practice a genre that is so forgiving. Music is my catharsis, I NEED it and I found a way to get it. I would urge any musician with PD to find a way to join an ensemble where you can add something to the mix. That's where the joy is (for me, anyway): not in being the star, not in dazzling anyone with my virtuosity, but in joining in musical communion and helping however humbly to make the thing work a little better.




Thanks Philip!

I sing, too, and actually it was the voice that was my first "instrument" (my mother was a singer, and I started singing at age two), so I too, use my voice more and make up songs, sing old ones, and still fiddle around on the viola and violin.

Unlike your dad, I won't ever sell my viola, although over a year ago I did consider it, as I was so demoralized over the dx of PD. Once I got over the initial shock and depression of the Dx, I realized that I could still play, although not up to speed.

I love playing with others and am now trying to find a niche for my singing and reduced playing skills. Although classically trained, I play and enjoy all styles.

Andante con vivo!




Jane, I understand exactly what you say about it being hard enough for a "ordinary" person, but for a musician........... I have been a working bass player for 40+ years and was diagnosed 4 years ago, I had never given it much thought before but now that my ability to play is slipping away I realise that

my whole life revolved around gigs, touring, rehearsals,recording etc etc and thus, was also my social life. When other people would be going out to the cinema, dinner parties..... whatever....I would always be gigging. So not only is my ability to play (work) diminishing so is my social life. Sounds worse than it , I have a lovely wife and grown up kids who are understanding.

I know what you mean about music being a refuge, I would spend hours every day practising difficult pieces probably for no good reason other than getting "lost" in playing the bass. It's almost a form of meditation, and of course when ones ability to play diminishes so does the ability to lose oneself in the music.

I guess one has no alternative but to accept the fact that one has Parkinson's, and all that goes with it. It's a bitter pill to have to swallow, I never thought I would lose my abilty to play the bass.

Perhaps,like you I should give lessons. Really I would not know where to start, scales I suppose, but how do you teach feel, the ability to swing etc etc?

I am going to an appointment with the Parkinson's nurse soon and intend to ask her about DBS,

not sure if it is an option on NHS, but if it is ?????? perhaps it would help.

Wishing you all the best and much sympathy



Thanks D.I appreciate your sympathy. It sure takes one to know one. Like you said, it's a bitter pill to swallow. I never thought I would lose my ability to play the viola. But we have no choice but to accept the fact that we have PD and go on with our lives.



I am disabled 60 years old with PD; I want to keep playing drums, is amazing how the music make me feel that I am healthy at all


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