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Documentary shares story of University of Central Oklahoma music professor's battle with MS

University of Central Oklahoma music professor Jim Klages shares his story of hope and battle with multiple sclerosis in “Healed: Music, Medicine and Life with MS.” The film will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Tuesday on OETA.
BY LINDSAY HOUTS, For The Oklahoman Published: July 2, 2014

University of Central Oklahoma professor of music Jim Klages was at the height of his career in the late 1980s.

As the cornet soloist for “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, Klages was a member of an elite collection of musicians, and on Jan. 20, 1989, was scheduled to perform at President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration.

Klages woke up that winter morning with an unshakable tingling in his left arm. The diagnosis: multiple sclerosis, the unpredictable, often disabling autoimmune disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord.

Klages’ illness, his love of music and his journey toward recovery are the subject of Samuel Karp’s documentary, “Healed: Music, Medicine and Life with MS.” The film, a decade in the making, will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Tuesday on OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide PBS station.

The documentary is the feature film directorial debut of Karp, who studied trumpet under Klages for three years as a teenager in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Karp, who holds a master of fine arts in film from the University of Southern California, reconnected with Klages.

“After hearing his story, what he’d been doing, it seemed like it was made for film,” Karp said. “My hope is that the film shares a message of hope and determination. Jim was fortunate in that some of his symptoms were alleviated. He still deals with MS symptoms, and his life was scarred by it. But his optimism and determination to achieve goals in life have never diminished.”

Long battle

After his diagnosis, Klages, who had been the first cornet soloist in the U.S. Marine Band in the 20th century, was medically retired from the Marines. He taught lessons and played gigs in D.C. while he embarked on what would become a multidecade battle with MS.

Eager both to provide for his wife and young daughter and to return to teaching music full-time, Klages accepted a job at Colorado’s Fort Collins College, Durango, and a decade later, at the University of Central Oklahoma.

As the disease progressed, Klages’ symptoms took a toll. Falling to the ground daily and unable to even button his shirts, playing cornet, or his first love, piano, became impossibilities.

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