05 Nov 2019

Overcoming Physical Limitations: Kevin Cole

by Kathleen Sykes

Being a professional musician can sometimes feel like being an Olympic athlete—you must push yourself to your physical and artistic limitations. But what happens when something threatens to limit your musical abilities? Pianist Kevin Cole told us about a harrowing experience he had when he had a tumor removed from his head.

In March of 2018 I had major brain surgery to remove a large acoustic neuroma (tumor). The doctors figured it had been growing in my head for 15 years. I had to face the real possibility that I might not survive the surgery; I might lose my hearing in my right ear; it might take at least a year of physical therapy to get my balance back; and the right side of my face might be paralyzed.

After an 8-hour surgery they were able to preserve everything except they had to sever my right hearing nerve in order to get the entire tumor. It was a miracle that I was able to walk the day after surgery and would need no physical therapy.

I waited three weeks before I sat down at my piano. My biggest concern was with only half my hearing; would I still feel the same connection inside when I create music through the piano. I did and my new realization was that my sense of touch was even more sensitive to dynamics and my brain told me to relax. Nothing has changed.