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Determined To Beat MS: Cellist Robert Cafaro Plays On!

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Jessica Griffin
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In 2015, cellist Bob Cafaro marked his 30th season with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

(Original broadcast, March, 2015) - The Philadelphia Orchestra has over 100 musicians, and as many stories - often inspiring and surprising.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis profiles Bob Cafaro, a cellist in the Orchestra since 1985, whose artistry is matched by his determination to live fully, both onstage and off.  

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: Fit and with a ready smile, Bob Cafaro looks barely old enough to have played under every music director since Ricardo Muti. Nor is there a clue that in 1999, Cafaro was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after suffering severe numbness, loss of vision, and more.

Bob Cafaro: I had over 50 lesions in my brain. I was unable to move my hands, I was legally blind...and I was told I’d be on permanent disability.

SL: Cafaro began researching stories of people who had beat the odds in different circumstances - from music and athletics, to traumatic events. He developed his own treatment, including meditation and  changes in diet and exercise. Six weeks later, he went back to the Orchestra.

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BC: They were great here. They enlarged the part for me, I sat by myself. I will forever be grateful for the way I was treated by the musicians, the staff…

SL: His lesions disappeared, and his abilities came back, along with his spirit and a continuing appreciation for his Orchestra and its heritage.

BC: To me, Muti was the ultimate in charisma, and Sawallisch came in and he was the pinnacle of musical artistry. And then Eschenbach...what a magician as a people person...and if you look at Yannick, you have the combination of all those characters in one package.

SL: Cafaro also teaches, plays recitals and chamber music, does solo work and volunteer activities, and has written a book on his successful fight against MS.

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Listen to more of Bob Cafaro's story, as told to WRTI's Susan Lewis.

As senior producer of arts and culture, Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and producer of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series, to which she also contributes weekly intermission interviews. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.