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News : Health Jul 15, 2009 - 2:59 AM

Bridgeport Symphony member orchestrates fight against MS

By National MS Society - CT Chapter

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Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra member Sue Spaulding smiles as she clutches her beloved French horn. Spaulding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, is organizing the Connecticut French Horn Orchestra concert to benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter.
Sue Spaulding’s life is devoted to the French horn, whether it is playing the instrument for orchestras or teaching students how to play across the state. So when her ability to play was hampered, she knew something was wrong.

“I had a few episodes of falling and of losing feeling on my right side,” said Spaulding, describing the initial symptoms of multiple sclerosis. “I played several concerts without feeling the horn bell on my right hand. I spent those concerts wondering if I was drooling or something equally obnoxious.”

Spaulding’s symptoms, she was told, were considered typical for the unpredictable disease and she was diagnosed with MS in 2005. Four years later, Spaulding’s personal battle has dovetailed with her professional ambition.

The first Connecticut French Horn Orchestra concert to benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter will take place Saturday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in North Haven at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“The diagnosis of MS was quite frightening but through counseling with my neurologist and information from the National MS Society, I found that I could certainly live with MS and go on with my life in any way I chose,” Spaulding said. “I have chosen to keep playing and I have more joy and satisfaction than I can even begin to describe.”

With her fight against MS as an inspiration, Spaulding created the concert as a way to bring the dozens of professional French horn players in the state together, something that has not been done in years.

“The response so far has been overwhelming and I’m looking forward to having at least 30 French horns playing at the concert,” she said. “It was very rewarding to me because when I asked my friends who play the horn, they were shocked because my diagnosis wasn’t something I shared. It wasn’t something I tried to hide, I just didn’t need to tell everybody.”

Spaulding explained that the outpouring of support has come from professional acquaintances who shared their experience of dealing with disease or knowing loved ones who live with MS.

St. John’s Episcopal Church agreed to host the inaugural event and Spaulding said the building’s acoustics are “perfect” for the French horn and should provide a memorable venue.

Matthew Lincoln, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, said that Spaulding, who is a member of the church, asked if the church could simply host the concert. But Lincoln and the church’s parishioners decided to get more involved.

“We could have just let her use the building but we find ourselves looking to support projects and do good in the community,” said Lincoln. “The people of St. John’s want to help people and that’s why we made an investment in this wonderful event. We’re very excited about it.”

Spaulding is the principal horn for the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the Hartford and New Haven Symphony Orchestras. She is also a teacher for the Hartt School of Music Community Division at the University of Hartford and teaches classes and lessons for the instrument individually and at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

The Connecticut French Horn Orchestra concert takes place Saturday, Sept. 12, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at 3 Trumbull Place in North Haven. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the church beginning Saturday, Aug. 15. Tickets will also be available at the door. Proceeds benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter.

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Spaulding, are affected by multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and, as a result, there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.

Funds raised for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, through events, such as the Connecticut French Horn Orchestra concert, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure, as well as to provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in the state living with multiple sclerosis.

For more information on the concert or to purchase tickets, please contact St. John’s Episcopal Church at 203-239-0156, e-mail or visit

To learn more about multiple sclerosis, its effects, and programs and services offered by the chapter to those living with MS by visiting

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