A musician with Bell’s Palsy: How I got my sound back

A musician with Bell’s Palsy: How I got my sound back


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2015

Antony Kearns, director of the music publishers Stainer & Bell, woke up one morning in January 2015, paralysed down one side of his face. He was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a condition that causes temporary weakness of the facial muscles. His first concern: could he still play the trumpet?

antony kearns


Early attempts were total failures. Over the past three months Antony has charted his progress on video.

He writes: ‘Worried I wouldn’t be able to play the trumpet again, and unable to find any trumpeter-specific stories among all the great ‘recovery diaries’ on YouTube, I set out to make the kind of video I would have found helpful when I was diagnosed. I’m publishing this as encouragement to fellow brass or woodwind players currently suffering with Bell’s Palsy and to show that it is possible to play again.’

He launched the video on Youtube today. Watch a brave, stubborn man get his sound back.


  • Sebastian says:

    It is indeed an inspiring story. We carried a similar tale about the recovery by saxophonist Jo Fooks


  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    The wonderful hornist Stefan de Leval Jezierski of the Berlin Philharmonic also went through this trial some years ago. He tell the story during his Horn Hangout with Sarah Willis, which can be seen here:


  • Russell Devuyst says:

    Bravo Anthony, I had a similar experience as a trumpet player except is was the Ramsay Hunt syndrome caused by the chicken pox virus (shingles in the ear) causing paralysis of the facial nerves. Similar to Bell’s Palsy in relation to the paralysis.

    • Ken says:

      Hi Russell, just read your comments on the trumpeter who had Bell’s Palsy. Like you i managed to get Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which is far worse than Bell’s Palsy. Could you let me know how long you had it and how long before you were back playing? I’ve had Ramsay Hunt syndrome for six months now. Although there is some improvement i still can’t get a note out if my saxophone.

  • Alison Fisher says:

    I heard Anthony play last night – Fanfare for the Common man plus a voluntary by Purcell. I would never have known he has gone through all this, and congratulate him on his excellent recovery.

  • Nancy Sulfridge says:

    I am an amateur clarinet player who developed Bell’s Palsy three weeks ago. I haven’t tried to play yet because I know I don’t have enough control of my lips. The video has encouraged me–maybe I’ll give it a try next week.

    • Ronda says:

      I woke up early one morning in 1985 to find my right side of my face paralyzed. I have two distinct faces and it is extremely difficult to get my mouth to seal around the mouthpiece. I still play my clarinet but sometimes I can only play through one verse of a hymn before I have to call it quits.

  • Chris says:

    I Am An Alot/ Tenor Sax Player Just Got Diagnosed With Bells Palsy , the Story was Very Encoraging . The Thought of not being able to play again is a Nightmare .
    looking For more stories and Advice on the subject

  • Cliff says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey through Bell’s Palsy. I was on vacation for 15 days. Returned to a rehearsal with the Symphonic Band I play flute and piccolo with. It was like I didn’t know how to form an embouchure. Scared me. The next morning it looked liked I had a mini-stroke but ER said it was Bell’s Palsy. That was 4 weeks ago today. Still working at resurrecting my embouchure. It will happen!!!