Nine Musicians Discuss Chronic Illnesses

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These nine musicians who were open enough to talk to Paste about their experiences with chronic illness prove that the musical life isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. Listen to their stories about the realities of playing music while struggling with chronic illnesses ranging from kidney failure to multiple sclerosis.

Joan Jeanrenaud
Solo Artist, Kronos Quartet

Chronic Illness:
Multiple Sclerosis

How long have you had Multiple Sclerosis?
15 years.

How does it affect your professional life?
I have altered the way I make music. I was a performer before MS (as cellist with the Kronos Quartet from 1978-1998), now [I’m] more of a composer, working with improvisation, electronics and multi-disciplinary projects. I am able to work in the Bay Area and restrict my travel instead of being on the road half the year.?

How does it impact your personal life?
My personal life is fantastic, but perhaps that is due to a controlled and consistent lifestyle that keeps me close to home, eating and exercising properly. [I’m] able to have a dog, take walks, make music and still learn all the time. I have chosen to work with a Tibetan doctor instead of the conventional Western doctor and therefore have never taken any Western drugs for my condition. [I] guess I am a true Californian after living here 34 years…?

Outside of your professional and personal dealings with Multiple Sclerosis, what else would you like others to know about it?
I think I am lucky to have a condition that has introduced me to many things I would not have ever explored otherwise. I am sure I have missed other opportunities, but chose to look on the positive side. Though I do have issues of mobility, I feel very healthy otherwise and have great friends, family and companions.

So I still have a very full and happy life.

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