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Jim’s Harmonica Stand

Even though Jim Conway has had multiple sclerosis (MS) for about thirty years, he believes he’s better off than most who have MS.

Jim feels blessed that he has been able to pursue one of the great loves of his life, performing and playing, for as long as he has.

Jim is a highly accomplished harmonica player in the blues, jazz, country, folk and rock music scenes.

In his more than 40 years as a musician, Jim has appeared with iconic Australian bands, had two gold albums and toured nationally and internationally. He is still performing and, if his last gig with his band, The Big Wheel, was any indication, the band is playing “better than we ever have”.

Although regarded by many in the industry as an elder statesman, Jim prefers to be known as a working musician and plans to go on performing for as long as he feels he can maintain the high standards which he sets for himself.

There is no doubt that Jim would be performing more if he did not have so much to contend with, having to manage each new manifestation of MS. He needs a strap to hold him upright in his wheelchair during performances and the hot stage lights have seen him become increasingly heat sensitive. Nonetheless “a dogged determination to get on with life” and the wonderful support of the other great love of his life, his wife Helen, have meant that there are no plans to give it away at this stage.

Others may have thought about retiring in my circumstances but I live for the music.

As the MS began to limit his dexterity it became increasingly difficult for Jim to manipulate the harmonica.

Catherine Cartwright, Jim’s occupational therapist, thought that TAD may be able to help and was put in touch with Jim Barrett, a TAD volunteer.

‘The Two Jims’ put their heads together and came up with a simple but effective design which allows two harmonicas to be attached to a modified microphone stand using screws and magnets.

The microphone stand had to be modified so it could be simply attached to the wheelchair and easily removed when not in use.

Jim Barrett describes it as one of his most satisfying achievements, delighted in the knowledge that his small contribution has meant that Jim can continue performing, playing and doing what he loves.

For Jim Conway it means he can keep going.

Working as a musician has kept my spirit strong. It is difficult for me these days but it is definitely still worthwhile.”

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TAD acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging.