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Although he has battled back pain for many years, Music Department Chair James Holleman is again standing and con­ducting after a suc­cessful back surgery on June 8.

“I first noticed some­thing was wrong about five years ago,” Holleman said. “I had pain and numbness in my leg and an MRI showed spinal stenosis, which was pinching a nerve.”

According to Holleman, the pain in his back and leg would increase the longer he stood while con­ducting rehearsals and con­certs.

“Treating that pain with therapy and injec­tions helped, but not totally,” Holleman said. “I had to use a barstool to rest during rehearsals and it was hard to stand through per­for­mances.”

After the pain caused him to lose his place during a per­for­mance at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and Cit­i­zenship, and then led him to almost pass out while con­ducting a Parents Weekend concert, Holleman sought further medical care.

“Last fall I was in even more pain and in Feb­ruary an MRI showed two stenoses of my spine and a rup­tured disc,” Holleman said. His doctor rec­om­mended spinal recon­struction.

“The out­standing sur­gical team gave me con­fi­dence even though the pro­cedure was intensive,” Holleman said. “They took several hours to walk me through the pro­cedure and answer my ques­tions.”

“The fusion process takes six months, so I took it easy this summer,” Holleman said. “The first full week of classes wiped me out, but I am better this week. I just have to be careful until the fusion is com­plete.”

According to Holleman, he had a post-surgery victory on Aug. 15 when he fin­ished a four-mile walk at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.

Stu­dents and col­leagues were happy to learn that Holleman was recov­ering well and in sig­nif­i­cantly less pain.

“I’m glad that he is back to his walking routine, and that his con­ducting seems more free now with mostly pain-free days,” Artist-Teacher of Music Debbi Wyse said.

“He seems to be recov­ering well,” junior Stevan Lukich, orchestra con­cert­master, said. “The surgery will hope­fully let him be more dynamic while leading the orchestra and not have to sit during long pieces.”

“The timing of the surgery was good for me to keep working,” Holleman said. “I am glad I did the surgery. Rehearsals have been mostly pain-free and I hope to be totally pain-free by the October concert.”

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Jace Lington is from Murphy, Texas. He is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship. Freelancer for the Collegian since 2014, he wants to transition from academia into journalism after graduation. Jace likes writing about politics, economics, and music when he isn't battling his cat, Hayek, for the keyboard. email: jlington@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @jacelington