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  • Writer's pictureJustin

Good News, Bad News ... And Good News

It hasn't been that long since I wrote last (at least by my blogging standards) but it feels like a lot has happened. The school year is in full swing, the season has definitively changed here in Portland, and I have some news to share with you.

The first good news is that the performance I announced in my last post, with Cascadia Composers at Leach Botanical Gardens (seen above), was a success. It was great to play an in-person outdoor gig again after a long pause, playing with the other musicians was fun, and we had a great crowd. The bad news? Well, about three-quarters of the way through the performance, I started getting pain and a considerable amount of tightness in my right hand. This is the hand on which most of the weight of the clarinet is held, but it's unusual to get pain like that during a performance. It steadily got worse but I finished the performance and iced my hand when I got home. I hoped it would feel better the next morning.

But that was wishful thinking. In fact, my whole right arm seemed to be affected now. I soon found out I was not able to do even low to medium-impact things like doing dishes, putting away groceries, or getting a book from a shelf. After a week of being very cautious about not lifting too much or exerting myself, I still didn't show any signs of improvement. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited about planning a series of streaming shows this fall and now I had this roadblock in my way. I thought a lot about what my next course of action would be.

After much consideration, I've decided to hold off on the streaming show series while continuing to rest my arm and hand. But -- and here's the good news -- I've decided to go ahead with another project that I have been thinking over for quite a while. It's physically low-impact by nature, it doesn't even involve musical instruments, and I'm really excited to finally be able to announce it to you now!

Our Stories

Our Stories is a pretty simple idea. I connect with people by Zoom to have a personal interview, asking them a few questions and hearing stories about their lives. I've been conducting interviews like this in-person since 2017 with family and friends and the experiences have really been wonderful: intimate, surprising at times, and always positive. I was inspired in part by the amazing work of StoryCorps, who have been preserving and sharing stories from people on the radio, YouTube, and more since 2003. For a while I have thought scaling up my interview project to reach a wider audience, but how to accomplish that, especially during COVID, remained a problem. Leveraging available technology, I hope to bring this project to light now.

I've spent the past few weeks setting up a website,, to be a public landing page for the project, with lots of info about the process, why I'm doing this, who I am, and where people can sign up. Eventually, my goal is to release snippets of people's stories, with their permission of course, as streamable or downloadable audio files, kind of like a podcast, so that their stories can reach an even broader audience. Hopefully I can bring that positive feeling to many other people in the process. But the process of talking -- and listening -- is an experience in and of itself.

So how can you get involved? Lots of ways! Maybe you know somebody who you'd like to nominate or recommend to share some of their life stories. Maybe you'd like to nominate yourself! Head to the website and read over the FAQ, then you'll find the Google Form you can use to sign up. Got other questions or concerns? Just ask!

StoryCorps always says that "listening is an act of love" and this project is truly a labor of love as well. There is no fee to be a part of it, but it does take time and money to maintain the website, conduct the interviews, edit audio, and lots of other tasks. I'm not running a campaign or fundraiser for this, but if you'd like to donate, feel free to send me a couple dollars on PayPal, Google Pay or Venmo. Actually the most important thing you can do is spread the word! Let me know what you think of the website and the project as a whole too.

Fortunately, a month after the gig now, I'm finally starting to see some improvement in my arm, but I will continue to be cautious in order to have the best recovery possible. I'm really excited for this new kind of artistic experiment and I hope you'll stick around with me for more.



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