Surviving a Serious Bicycle Accident

Glenn and his daughter Karra

Glenn and his daughter Karra

Glenn Paulson began his musical training at 6 years old.
After studying percussion at the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School, he auditioned and won a position with the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band in 1997, where he performs regularly at the White House, in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

While on tour with the Marine Band in 2009, Glenn was in Washington state near Mt. Rainer, and decided to take his new collapsible bike out for the first time. He rode about 25 miles at 11 a.m., and then woke up at 10 p.m. in a hospital bed. He found out that he had been hit by a car and had broken his clavicle, two ribs, two toes, and bones in his skull. Amazingly, if the bone that had cracked in his right ear were any closer to his eardrum, he would have lost hearing, which would be devastating to a professional musician.

Glenn still doesn’t remember much about his recovery process. He had vertigo, 23 MRIs, and briefly lost the ability to speak and process thought. He does remember coming out of a bone scan machine being unable to move or talk, and then crying in frustration. Suddenly remembering his daughter’s name helped him to know that she needed him to get better. Karra, his young daughter, was his inspiration for recovery.

Glenn started therapy at Walter Reed Hospital and remembers re-learning the alphabet five letters at a time. During his therapy, he realized that he never forgot how to read music, so he began practicing for an upcoming masterclass.

Three weeks after his accident with his arm in a sling, which he took off for the performance, Glenn played a mallet masterclass at the International Percussion Convention in front of some of the greatest living percussionists. Instead of becoming nervous, he remembered that he had almost died three weeks prior, and his performance went well. He even spoke Spanish to a Spanish-speaking student in the class, which came back to him in the moment.

After 10 months of setbacks from surgeries and therapy, dealing with some tough family situations, and some performances that weren’t as easy as they used to be, Glenn has not only recovered fully, but he is thriving in his performance career.

On the five-year anniversary of his accident, he performed a concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a soloist with John Williams conducting. He now composes music as therapy, and has had seven pieces published, premiered, and performed all over the country. He will return to the International Percussion Convention in November 2015 to speak and play in a masterclass.

Glenn Paulson is a percussionist in the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band

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