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Ron's Story

Patient, Music Educator, Husband, Father

An inner voice guides me: “If not now, when?”

I have lived a charmed life, a life full of music and love. I have truly enjoyed my life as a music educator, husband and father.

My wife, Debbie, is my soulmate. We enjoy camping, kayaking, going to concerts, gardening and so much more. Our sons are fine young men—warm, caring, intelligent, hard-working. Both are college graduates with full-time jobs that they enjoy. We live in a community filled with art and music, yet 2 miles from a trailhead that leads into wilderness.

My life has not been without its challenges. The biggest challenge is the one that I face today. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011; I probably had it for 5 to 10 years before that. I am extremely fortunate in that I have been able to hold off its advance quite well. Thanks to fine doctors, miraculous meds, excellent chiropractic care, my long-time study of the Alexander Technique and kinesthetic exercises, few people can tell that I am living with PD.

I think that my lifetime of involvement in music has also been a significant factor in holding my PD symptoms at bay. Music with its demands and rewards, its own language and notation, its variety of physical techniques, its unique method of transmitting emotion is good for the brain. Scans showing brain activity of musicians playing an instrument show us a veritable fireworks display in both hemispheres.

About the time that I was diagnosed, I counted up that I was either directing or playing in 10 to 12 ensembles—each of which were working on and performing about 9 pieces. So very conservatively, I was working on 90 or so compositions at the same time. Although I am retired, for 5 decades I taught music and directed musical groups. In the accompanying photo you see me rehearsing some of the singers from the Missoula Community Chorus, which I still direct. I continue to sing in area choirs and play in local instrumental groups. As an adult learner I have taken up the cello and the euphonium. I continue to play the instruments of my youth—guitar and bass guitar. All this music making has got to increase the number of synapses firing away in my brain. When it comes to synapses, the more the merrier!

I find that I am the happiest when I am busy doing things and making plans for adventures and travel with Debbie. Still, down deep in my soul there is an intense sadness, which I rarely allow to surface. At times I get the feeling that I am doing too much, but I still burn with desires—go on that trip, take up a new instrument, work on an extremely challenging piece with my choir, ...

Ron Wilcot, Aged 69, USA
Living with Parkinson’s

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