My shoulder hurts! How can I conduct?!

The first year I started teaching, I also decided to start competing in Aerobic Gymnastics.

(Who does that?...but I digress.)

And without any formal training...I read the rule book and went to a competition.

Three years later, I was fortunate enough to win the nationals of the event.

And then, I kept competing for five more years representing the USA at the World Championships in the male individual category...while teaching full time.

But my job is to teach choral music in public schools and to conduct them.

Jumping several feet into the air and landing in a pushup position on a hardwood floor can't be good for careers like the one I chose.


In 2008, I remember doing a "dip" during my workout and thinking..."I just ripped my rotator cuff."

But I kept on going.

Fast forward to 2018.

I've been in Physical Therapy for both shoulders at four different times since I competed in my beloved sport.

Four years ago, I was conducting my 8th-grade chorus when my right shoulder felt like it literally popped out of the socket.   One of my students said, "Mr. Duncan...are you ok?"

 I started PT and helped my right shoulder get into decent condition.

A little over a year ago, my left shoulder started talking to me.  It was a slow progression.  Sometime during the 2017-2018 school year, I recall a workout during which I knew something bad happened, but I kept on rolling.

It hurt.

I ignored it.

By March 2018, the pain in my left shoulder was almost unbearable.  When I lifted it to conduct my chorus one day for their GMEA adjudication, a bolt of pain shot through my body.  My face didn't show the pain this time, and I finished the work.

I called my doctor for a prescription to PT and started it all again.

My Physical Therapist is awesome.   He works out hard and loves the work that he does.   With someone like me, who apparently has a very high tolerance for pain, it must be hard to diagnose what is happening.

On the first day of this most recent round of PT, I knew my shoulder was broken.  I could barely do the simple exercises he was asking me to do even though I was still working out at the gym and doing unassisted pull-ups in the pike position.

I did PT through July 2018.  My pain had decreased from a 10 to about 3.

He was happy.

I was happy.


I told him I thought I needed an MRI.  He seemed shocked.  "You're so much better."

I said...I just want to see what is happening in there.

Three tears.

One complete and severe.

My therapist was shocked.  "You're symptoms don't match the MRI."    ...because I hid them and kept pounding out the daily work.

The doctor, who operates on football players for the Atlanta Falcons, said to me..."We have serious problems in your shoulder.  I'm not sure I can fix it, but I want to try because you are so active and fit.   If I can't fix it, I'll make you feel better than you currently do."

I was crushed.

It was almost the end of July and school started July 30.

I asked the doctor, "Can I wait until December after my concert?  I could also do November if you really think I need to do it."

He answered..."You've already waited.   The longer you wait, the less likely it is possible for me to fix it."

He brought future doctors in the room to learn from my case.  "I'm not sure how he still has that muscle mass.   It's not normal."

So, here I the mess of my own creation...

And my right shoulder is way worse than my left but it hasn't been screaming as loudly in recent years.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

So, I threw all of the information into the pot, and I decided to get the shoulder surgery on August 27th.  I will have had 3 weeks with my students.   My thinking was this:  I will have established routines and given them a good start.

The doctor says to take three weeks off work.

My current plan is to take one.  ...But I've given myself permission to take more.  I have to get on the other side of the surgery to determine if it's necessary.

If he can really fix it, I'll be recovering for 9 months minimum.  For 8 weeks, I will be immobilized in a sling.

If he can't fix it but is able to help me feel better, I'll be in the sling for 3 weeks and in PT for 3 months.

8 days from now, I will know what I face when I wake up from the surgery.

So this is where I am in this moment.

I am telling my students about the surgery tomorrow.

I know they will be super supportive of me and will do everything they can do to make sure I don't cause damage and get to recover properly.  I'm going to be honest with them.  I'm vulnerable, and I'm going to reveal that to them.

It's been my way for 27 years.

I'm going to tell them how much I want to still give them the experiences they deserve and that they expect but that my health has to be my guiding light.

I'm both horrified about what is on the other side of the surgery and exhilarated by it.

I'm looking forward to this new journey with my students in some ways.  I'll learn new ways to solve problems.  I'll learn new ways to teach that I've never explored.  I'll lean on them more and realize what they can do that I had not explored before because I could solve it on my own quickly.

I'm not really good at asking for support.

I have to change that...

I'm going to.

So, I plan to post on my blog, on Facebook and on YouTube about this journey.

I think some of the posts will be raw and not so cute.

I'm going to lay it out there and share.

It's always been my way.

No reason to change it now...and I hope that other teachers who experience what I'm experiencing will benefit and learn from my experience and from my mistakes.

Fingers crossed.

S-Cubed Multiple License Discount through August 31, 2018

It's August and students around the country are headed back to school!  I am finishing up week two here in Georgia, and my beginners will start ear-training with Lesson 3 of S-Cubed on Monday! 

More and more, I'm hearing from teachers who have spread the word about S-Cubed Sight Singing Program to their peers, and their peers want it too!

So, I'm offering a special Multiple License Deal on S-Cubed from now until August 31st at midnight on the MEGA Bundle and Level ONE.

For the rest of August, when you purchase more than one license, the first unit is full price, and all subsequent units purchased will be 50% off the regular price.  

If you have already purchased a license, and you want more licenses, you TOO can take advantage of this offer by signing into TpT using the account with which you made the original purchase.  Just go to "My Purchases"  and locate the bundle you have already purchased.  Click "Buy Additional Licenses" to take advantage of the deal.  

Have a great school year!