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By  Jaclyn Fan

Published  April 25th, 2021


The Untold Hardships of Music by Jaclyn Fan


I have been a musician since I was five years old. I began my musical career as a pianist, and I started playing viola in sixth grade through my middle school’s music program. Music has made an immeasurable impact on my life thus far, and it continues to do so every day. However, my reliance on music took an unfortunate turn during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In quarantine, overwork and position, in addition to other still undetermined medical causes, caused me to develop shoulder bursitis, which has rendered me unable to play viola for the entire school year now. My doctors think something else may be affecting my shoulder too. Not only am I now unable to rely on my instrument for comfort, but other everyday tasks are more difficult than before too. My shoulder’s mobility is limited, which makes it difficult to write for long periods of time. I have to be extremely careful in any type of physical activity, which is also taxing. 


I am still able to play piano (for limited periods of time), but viola is ruled out indefinitely for me. I’ve had multiple medical evaluations and procedures done, but we haven’t quite found the source or solution for my injury yet.


I lost the haven and oasis of music to the extent that I had taken for granted, and I still don’t have it back fully today. What I am most grateful for, however, is the musical community that I can still bond with through other measures. I still appreciate the experiences, skills, and lessons I have learned through my musical journey, but the future just looks a bit different for me now.


How does music positively impact you now?

Music still serves as an escape for me. I listen to music every single day, and I’ve been discovering many new artists through social media and recommendations. I have a deeper appreciation for the hardships of music now, and I have been working to educate myself about issues within the music industry as well. I hope to keep sharing those discoveries through LLM’s work.


What lessons did you learn through music that you wouldn’t have learned elsewhere? 

MEANINGFUL practice makes perfect. This is a huge one, and it sounds overused and annoying but it truly works. Also, bonding with others through something as universal as music is unbeatable.

One thing that bothers me is that an injury like mine may not be visible or prominent, and in that way people can be ignorant or dismissive of the condition. I think this speaks to a larger issue - disabilities, even on a wider scale, are not always visible, and that means sensitivity and understanding for all is really important. You never know what others are going through!


What was your favorite part about being a musician? 

My favorite part has to be the experiences I had. Whether it was performing at All-State in 2020 and hearing the applause after our final piece or playing in a Beethoven Septet at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, I met some of the best people in the world through music and I couldn’t be more grateful!


How can other musicians, who had to stop, continue being involved in their art? 

I think the most important thing is adaptation to your own circumstances. Because I have a physical limitation now, I try to focus on things that don’t require physical action on my part. For me, that looks like more visual/aural learning and mental gymnastics. I think this differs for everyone, but being clear with what you are personally capable of and limited from is key! I think there are ways to stay involved, and the people you surround yourself with are a huge part of that.

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