Billy McLaughlin is featured in the PBS special "Starry Night." It's a concert and a profile of the finger-tapping guitarist's return to the concert stage after contracting a career-threatening neurological condition. (Ryan Taylor)
Billy and I share some commonalities - both graduated from USC, both professional musicians and both have a neurological movement disorder called dystonia.
Dystonia effects muscle control and for no known reason makes those important muscles we need to make our art move in spastic ways or curl upon themselves, contract into a claw or just not work at all.
For me, well, I'm in radio now. For Billy, he just wasn't ready to leave it all behind. It's taken years, but he has found a way to play in spite of his illness and to continue to make all of us filled with joy and a kind of utter peace when we hear his music - and he's done the same for himself.
And what a special person Billy is! So filled with joy himself after turning what life threatened to take away into one of his greatest gifts.
This week and next, public television will air a special on Billy playing his signature finger tapping style with an orchestra and speaking about his life in music.
And just in time, I caught up with him to share his favorite classical playlist with us.
Next week is Halloween and we will step into the MPR dungeon below the lower level parking garage and visit with cartoonist Sam Hiti who has agreed - well, by coercion - to pick a playlist and draw - under duress - illustrations of these spooky pieces.
Vanska and Keefe announce engagement
According to each of their personal Facebook accounts, Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Concertmaster Erin Keefe have announced they are engaged to one another.