Living with Asthma
I was born in the wheatbelt town of Narrogin and was first hospitalized with asthma symptoms as a 2 year old.
I suffered from asthma throughout my childhood and teenage years, but still managed to play sport regularly, such as football, cricket and athletics.
I didn't seriously begin to play music until my early 20s when I started playing didgeridoo and harmonica. At the age of 21 I traveled throughout Europe for over a year, during which time I purchased a bamboo flute for one pound in Portobello road in London. I played that instrument throughout the course of my travels, which led to the discovery that I could learn to play instruments (at some basic level) reasonably quickly. Incidentally, I was hospitalized on a couple of occasions during my travels (and even given blood in Italy), but I was petty determined and undaunted back then.
I took up the professional life of a musician at in 1985. I had been working in public radio (Radio 6nr) for about six years training budding Aboriginal broadcasters and working on the first Aboriginal programme in WA.
Over my years of working as a musician, I have toured throughout Australia performing in various groups and also touring in schools under the auspices of Musica Viva and and an agency in Melbourne, Nexus Arts. A signature of my work has been performing on wind and percussion instruments I have built from pvc pipe, dating back to a group I co-founded in the 1980s, AC/PVC.
I have lived with and sometimes had to battle through my career as a performing musician being asthmatic and perhaps ironically, my chosen instruments are predominantly wind-oriented, including saxophone, flute, didgeridoo, clarinet and a variety of ethnic winds, such as bagpipes and folk reed instruments.
Perhaps like swimmers who are asthmatic, I feel that playing wind instruments has helped to strengthen and to exercise my lungs and also helped with my endurance. The inevitable downside of being asthmatic, however, is that I have sometimes had to perform under adverse circumstances where breathing, let alone playing a wind instrument, has been quite a struggle. But, as they say, the show must go on...
About six years ago, my asthma seemed to be getting out of control and my then doctor suggested I see Professor Philip Thompson at Sir Charles Gardner hospital (he is also Director to the Lung Institute of Western Australia). I felt at this point that my asthma was now potentially threatening my career. I was taking repeated doses of antibiotics and steroids and I felt my playing and general stamina was suffering as a result. I think I can fairly credit Prof. Thompson with really turning my health and my career around. He made me aware of aspects of my condition that were completely new to me and despite the fact that my lungs have suffered over the years, my overall heath and the circumstances of my asthma today have very significantly improved. Over the past three years I have also been attending palates sessions to help boost my respirory system and improve the inevitable postural challenges that result from decades of chest-related problems.
In recent years I have felt a renewal in both my overall health and stamina which has benefited my playing enormously.
I continue to perform with my groups, The Flying Carpathians, Ozmosis and newly formed duo, playing eastern and Arabic music. I also play in a group performing Catalan folk music on traditional folk oboes, grallas.