Parker Sanningham, 54, performs in concert halls around the world. Often called the premier pianist of his generation, he is known for his technical brilliance and perfectionism. Sanningham expects the same perfectionism from everyone and everything around him.
Recently, he has begun to struggle with day-to-day details that used to seem routine, although his performances remain flawless. At the very top of his game, he is losing the self-confidence he needs to drive his virtuoso performances. Parker’s wife Vanessa and his assistant Justin cover up for him, and provide the reminders he needs to keep him on cue.
Parker’s mother Elizabeth Sanningham, 75, juggled a career as a concert pianist with raising her children. She was forced to retire from the stage when she developed Parkinson’s disease.
Worried that history is repeating itself, Parker consults a neurologist. After a battery of tests, the doctor diagnoses him with early stage Alzheimer’s.
In despair, Parker tells his assistant to cancel all future performances. Wishing to spare his family the pain and financial burden of caregiving, he files for divorce and moves into a small apartment in another town. Cut off from family and friends, he tries to commit suicide. After a hospital stay, he is referred to a support group for people with mild memory loss. Although they know nothing about his life, the members of the group encourage him to focus on his remaining abilities.
The ideas of Jim Mueller, 66, a dairy farmer and support group member, inspire Parker to think about ways to work around his cognitive problems. Parker visits his mother in her retirement community in Florida, and an impromptu piano duet with her gives him the confidence to resume his career. His experiences bring new richness and emotion to his performances, and with the help of his assistant, he makes a triumphant return to the stage.
Parker Sanningham - Often called the premier pianist of his generation, Parker is known for his technical brilliance and perfectionism. He expects the same perfectionism from everyone and everything around him. He lives in Chicago with his wife Vanessa.
Vanessa Sanningham (Parker’s wife) - Besides keeping track of Parker and their two college-age children, Vanessa owns and runs a high end home design and accessories store called Domesticity. Since their marriage 25 years ago, Vanessa and Parker have been called “the perfect couple” by their friends. Recently, though, Vanessa has begun to think Parker is not paying attention to her or to their marriage. She is increasingly frustrated at having to pick up the slack when Parker fails to handle the details of their daily lives.
Justin Williams (Parker’s assistant) - Young, attractive and ambitious, Justin keeps up an active social life while working as Parker Sanningham’s assistant and studying towards a degree in entertainment management.
Elizabeth Sanningham (Parker’s mother) - Elizabeth juggled a career as a concert pianist with raising her children. She was forced to retire from the stage when she developed Parkinson’s disease. A widow for several years now, she lives in a retirement community in Sarasota, Florida.
Jim Mueller - Jim is an independent thinker and dairy farmer. He was into sustainable agriculture decades before it was popular, and is constantly developing innovative solutions for his organic dairy farm. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, at the age of 59. He approaches Alzheimer’s the same way he does farming, and develops ways to work around his cognitive problems and enjoy life.
The Musician's Mind by Mona Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.