Benefit Concert Showcases Dystonia Awareness & Talent from Rushmore Music Festival

Local Family Honors Memory of Friend & Dystonia Advocate

February 3, 2017

A charity concert to benefit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) and Rushmore Music Festival took place January 26 at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, FL. Members of the Rushmore Music Festival performed chamber music by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, and Chausson. Professional musicians are a population at increased risk of developing dystonia, which is defined as a chronic, often disabling, neurological disorder marked by extreme, involuntary muscle contractions that cause twisting, repetitive body movements and abnormal postures.

The benefit concert was organized by Brett Walfish, Missy Walfish, and Katie Smirnova. They were inspired by their friendship with Shari Farber-Tritt, a local woman who was affected by severe dystonia since childhood. Although dystonia is not typically fatal, Farber-Tritt passed away prematurely due to a tragic accident. Farber-Tritt was an active dystonia awareness advocate, along with her sister Beth Farber who continues to serve on the DMRF Community Leadership Council. The concert sought to continue the sisters’ mission to bring greater visibility to the disorder.

“It was very important for us to do anything we could to help, and to honor Shari,” says organizer Missy Walfish. “We informed people about dystonia, and want to help those who are suffering by supporting research that can help them have a better life. Hopefully young musicians won’t have to suffer in the future.”

There are numerous dystonia subtypes that impact people of all ages and backgrounds. Common signs include twisting or abnormal movements of the head and neck, excessive blinking, a breathy or choking voice, hand cramps, or a twisted foot. Conservative estimates suggest no fewer than 250,000 Americans are affected. Dystonia is frequently misdiagnosed due to a lack of awareness even among medical professionals.

Musician’s dystonia is triggered by playing an instrument. Extreme muscle spasms occur only when playing the instrument and disappear at rest. String and piano players develop dystonia in the fingers and hands; brass and woodwind musicians develop symptoms in the hands or embouchure. Estimates suggest 1% of professional musicians are affected by dystonia, but rates vary by instrument. There are likely large numbers of undiagnosed musicians. Prominent musicians who have gone public with their dystonia experiences include Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Alex Klein, Billy McLaughlin, and others

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance research toward improved treatments and a cure, promote education and awareness, and provide support resources to affected individuals and families. More information is available at www.dystonia-foundation org or 800-377-DYST (3978).

The Rushmore Music Festival is a chamber music concert series that takes place each summer in Spearfish, SD at Black Hills State University. More information is available at or 605-646-3146.

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The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) has served the dystonia community since 1976. Join us in our global effort to find a cure.