As a 21-year-old senior at Boston Conservatory of Music in 1979, Lisa Thorson was well on her way to a career in musical theater. “I was doing a fair number of shows outside the college and had just landed the lead female role in a 1940s musical that had a lot of pretty athletic dancing,” she says. “Then one day I was doing some flips, back to back, with my dancing partner, and the trick went wrong.” She fell, became paralyzed at the C5-6 level and began an eight-month stint in rehab. Suddenly, her promising career was in serious doubt — just as it was getting off the ground.

In rehab, she refused to eat with others in the dining room — “I just wouldn’t, I was quite spoiled” — and also refused some discouraging advice: “People were saying you’re never going to sing again, you can’t do it, you’re never going to have the breath capacity to do this,” she says. “But I was determined I wasn’t going to stop what I’d been doing.”

She resumed voice lessons while still in rehab. “It was painful, emotionally. I had alw