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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Miracle Violinist Martha Curtis Performs Monday, November 8

SALISBURY, MD---Martha Curtis has battled epilepsy since age 3. At 11, she fell in love with music—violin in particular—at a summer camp and decided to devote her career to playing. Curtis graduated as salutatorian from the Interlochen Arts Academy and graduated with honors from the Eastman School of Music. She eventually became one of the world’s premier concert violinists. Yet the seizures continued to plague her for years, including her music practices, and the neurological storms even attacked while she was performing on stage. The seizure-controlling drugs she was taking reached toxic levels and after experiencing four grand mal seizures in one month in 1990, Curtis began considering surgery as an option. She underwent three operations. In 1991, she had part of her right temporal lobe removed to help control the seizures, only to have them return because the surgeons did not remove enough. Finally, after two more surgeries that removed 50 percent of the lobe, she is seizure-free and her ability to perform and memorize difficult pieces of music is greater than before. Her success story has changed preconceived notions on brain and memory function worldwide. “Martha just destroyed brain theories with no charts, no graphs,” said Dr. Robert Zajonc, of Stanford University’s psychology department. “She made statements, put up her violin to drive them home, and the music was unarguable.” At 7 p.m. Monday, November 8, she shares her story and music in the Great Hall of Salisbury University’s Holloway Hall. Curtis attributes her love of music with giving her the motivation to live and risk the surgeries: “I am alive today because I had a violin.” Curtis now travels the country, presenting recitals and lectures with orchestras and as a guest teacher on university campuses, sharing her story of perseverance. She uses words, videos of her seizures, scans of her own brain and performances of Bach’s pieces that kept her spirit driving forward to convey the importance of never giving up. According to The Houston Chronicle, “Martha Curtis is every inch a musician … her music talks.” “Martha’s indomitable courage and achievement [are] inspiring and uplifting, a testament to the untapped possibilities of the human mind and will,” said Charles Castleman of the Eastman School of Music. She has presented to international audiences, including neuroscience and epilepsy conferences, and was profiled by 60 Minutes and The Today Show. Following her SU appearance, Curtis keynotes the annual meeting for the Epilepsy Association of the Eastern Shore Tuesday, November 9. The Office of Cultural Affairs and Museum Programs, Department of Music, Epilepsy Association of the Eastern Shore and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals sponsor the performance.  The event is free and the public is invited. For information call 410-543-6385 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.

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