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Orchestrating Stroke Recovery

Most of my music comes from following my curiosity, without consciously articulating an explicit goal or purpose. But lately I have been asking myself more pointedly what I want my music to do, and for whom. I am thrilled to get started on a project where the answers to these questions are clear.

Commissioned by the 2020 Live Arts Boston program of the Boston Foundation, I’m creating a composer residency with recovering stroke patients. With guidance from neurologists and rehabilitation specialists, I’ll work with patients, family members, caregivers and professional musicians, to create a large-ensemble composition for us all to perform together.

The process will involve multiple stages of collaborative work and feedback. I’ll work one-on-one with each patient participant to learn their personal story, their capabilities and specific rehabilitation goals. With the group as a whole, we’ll explore structured improvisations and interactive ensemble play. The final composition will incorporate what we learn collectively along the way, including sections led by participating professional musicians.

In music, I have long been intrigued by the paradoxical way in which limitations—whether deliberately self-selected or externally imposed—can lead to new insights and creative freedom. Through this project, recovering patients will learn to approach stroke-related challenges as musical opportunities.

Together we’ll create something beautiful that reflects the patients’ experiences, and challenges them to continue on their journey back to health. Our hope is that this process will also open pathways to greater freedom in their lives.

The new work will be performed in a series of public presentations tentatively planned (pandemic conditions permitting) for the late spring of 2021. We are also making contingency plans to reimagine the project for realization online, if in the spring it is still unsafe for high-risk individuals to play music together in person.

This project is made possible in collaboration with the Brain Music Workshop of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the MGH Cardio-Neurology Division, and the Brain/Heart/Music/Art Initiative, with partial support from a Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation. We are actively seeking new partners, to extend our impact by involving more patients, families, organizations and communities.