DIANNE HEIJSTEE - Chronic Illness and Going on Tour

DIANNE HEIJSTEE - Chronic Illness and Going on Tour

Being a musician is not an easy life. It is hard work, long days and being away a lot. We need our bodies to be happy, healthy and strong to be able to do our job. Now what happens when your body is not in the best condition? What happens when you are ill very often or when you have a chronic illness? Can you still perform and go on tour?

The answer is: YES!

My name is Dianne, and I am a 24-year-old recorder player with multiple sclerosis (MS): a neurological disorder which affects the central nervous system. I got diagnosed in the fall of 2013, during my recorder studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. In the meantime I also already became a member of The Royal Wind Music and I just started a second study, musicology, at the university. I was very busy and I did not have any time to have a chronic illness! (I mean, who does anyway, really…!) I was lucky that I did not suffer from many symptoms at the time, except some side effects of my medication and a little fatigue. I was doing quite well physically.

Now, exactly three years later, the situation is different. I suffer from fatigue, I have a hard time walking and I am using a rollator (or wheeled walker). I can’t go to university very often, because it is too tiring to go there by public transport. I can’t clean my house myself and I need a lot of breaks during the day and at least ten hours of sleep every night. So how am I still functioning as a musician? How can I still manage to give concerts and go on tour?

Here are some tips and tricks!


First of all, being on tour means a lot of traveling. Traveling means a lot of sitting down (and drinking coffee ;) ) which is great when you have limited physical energy.

Another thing is carrying suitcases: if you don’t have enough energy to do it yourself, ask your colleagues to help you or take it over from you. It will save you a lot of energy!

It might sound boring, but if you need a lot of energy the next day (for a concert for example), don’t go for drinks the evening before! You might miss out on a social occasion, but you will have many more of those and you will save energy to actually do your job. And your body will be very grateful ;)

Sleep. Get enough of it. It doesn’t matter if it is in a car, plane, train or hotel. Just. Get. Your. Sleep. If you can’t get the amount of hours you normally need, then still try to get as much as you can anyway.

Coffee. Great when you are chronically tired. Sometimes you just need some extra coffee to stay awake and play an evening concert!

Food. Very clichéd, but eat healthy and drink enough water. Musicians generally don’t have the best eating habits. Try to get your three meals a day. The two things I always carry around with me: a bottle of water and a little box with dates and/or nuts: very healthy and easy to bring with you!

Enjoy! Yes, you might not feel well, but you are on tour. You are being a musician. You are surrounded with music. Enjoy that feeling. Enjoy that moment of ‘how am I ever going to manage this’ before going on tour and/or giving a concert, and that ‘Yes, I DID IT!’-feeling afterwards. Be proud of yourself. Enjoy the fact that you made an entire audience happy.

Planning. Make sure you have enough time planned to rest before and afterwards, so your body can recover.

AVOID STRESS!!! It is not very easy to avoid stress, since musicians lives are quite stressful. Human beings are not made to be stressed. Our bodies are greatly affected by it, especially when your body is never in a fully healthy state.

Listen to your body. It will be right. Always. If you don’t listen to it, you will feel the consequences later.

Know your limits. In the case of multiple sclerosis, one day your body can act quite okay and the next day you can only lie down. Try to figure out what your limits are and which activities consume more energy. Use this knowledge when you go on tour!

If you have questions/suggestions or you want me to write about a certain topic next time, don’t hesitate to contact me through my website www.dianneheijstee.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Dianne Heijstee (*1992) studied the recorder at the Amsterdam Conservatoire with Jorge Isaac, Erik Bosgraaf and Walter van Hauwe. Dianne graduated in May 2016. She is a member of The Royal Wind Music since May 2011. For Dianne, having background knowledge about the music she performs is essential. For this reason, she started a degree in Musicology at the University of Utrecht in 2013. www.dianneheijstee.com


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