Whoever Said Musicians Are Lazy Never Met This Guy

Here’s a little something today for anyone looking for some good news. National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) principal trombone, Craig Mulcahy, recently underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder which will leave him without the use of that arm for anywhere from three to six weeks. Although that’s usually enough to get any good musician down, Mulcahy decided to figure out a meaningful solution for practicing.

One Arm Trombone StandIf you’ve ever watched a trombone player in action you’ve probably figured out by this point that the loss of an entire arm is pretty much a showstopper and in pretty much every other case, you would correct. However, in this instance, Mulcahy started off with half a wheel from a Boeing 737, a landing gear actuator, and ended up with a solution that will allow him to maintain his playing edge and keep the melancholy at arm’s length.

And demonstrating what might be best characterized as a crazy-intense work ethic, he gave the stand its first real-world application a few hours after getting home from surgery.

For those curious about the details, Mulcahy says the actuator is attached to the wheel with two 1/4″ thick pieces of aluminum that he cut into matching size discs. They’re held together by six nuts/bolts; one disc on top and one underneath. There are straps anchoring it to a futon frame with an additional 45lb weight for added support which helps minimize wobbling.

The landing gear actuator is height-adjustable as is the percussion boom. There are two percussion clamps; one joins a commercial designed support stand from ERGObrass and the other suspends the bell section and has fully adjustable angles.

If nothing else, so long as the field has resourceful and creative people like this around, we shouldn’t have to worry too much about death of classical music.

Full Disclosure Mode: Craig Mulcahy is my brother-in-law but that certainly doesn’t make this any less absorbing and I hope he turns this into a series of videos as it would be fascinating to not only watch the recovery but provide an inside look into why musicians have to spend so many hours maintaining their skills.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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5 thoughts on “Whoever Said Musicians Are Lazy Never Met This Guy”

  1. Good luck, Craig. I feel your pain – literally. Just survived rotator surgery myself. Warning: after the first 24 hours things get worse fast, and the first four weeks are pretty bad. Unfortunately, in my case it was the right shoulder – couldn’t even touch my horn for about ten weeks, and then only sparingly. Took me from July to end of October to be able to play again. I’d be interested to know if you’re able to continue playing (even with the use of your ingenious invention) during the healing process.
    Best of luck with your recovery.
    Oh, and I loved the Rochut – one of my favorites!

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