Health Promotion in Schools of Music: The Impacts on College Faculty

By Berenson, Gail | American Music Teacher, June-July 2005 | Go to article overview

Health Promotion in Schools of Music: The Impacts on College Faculty


Berenson, Gail, American Music Teacher


While in college, majoring in piano performance, not one word was ever mentioned about injury prevention, ways to handle performance anxiety or how musicians can protect themselves from the many risk factors that can endanger one's future as a musician. Various studies have been published over the years clearly demonstrating the need for more wellness information. In 1986, Hunter Fry, M.D., documented his results of a survey of 7 symphony orchestras indicating a 50 percent incidence of overuse syndrome in orchestral players. In 1987, Martin Fishbein, along with other authors, published the now famous ICSOM (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians) study, which surveyed forty-seven U.S. orchestras stating that 76 percent of musicians reported at least one medical problem severe enough to affect performance; the numbers have not significantly improved since these studies were published.

An unprecedented meeting of medical professionals and musicians took place in September 2004, in Fort Worth, Texas. MTNA was one of twenty-three organizations, partnering with the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and the Texas Center for Music and Medicine at the University of North Texas, in response to a National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) directive to include health information in every music curriculum. This charge to our educational institutions arose from a clear need to better educate future artists and teachers about the risks associated with learning and performing music and how to maintain their physical and psychological well-being. This is a long-overdue mandate that hopefully will provide today's students with information that will help keep future generations healthy and productive. With substantial financial support from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the International Music Products Association, the International Foundation for Music Research and the National Endowment for the Arts, significant progress was made toward developing a nationally implemented health communication module for music schools across the country.

The Health Promotion in Schools of Music (HPSM) conference, consisting of three intense days of lectures and thought-provoking discussions, included comprehensive presentations by task force groups organized into four areas--physical health, mental health, audiological health and vocal health. The overall goal was to initiate the development of a core content that will be distributed to all NASM-affiliated institutions. For those in attendance, this meeting provided an incredibly stimulating and educational experience.

The stated four-fold mission of the conference:

To initiate the development of core materials for health promotion materials specifically for NASM school students, increase NASM school administrators' and faculty awareness of and ability to access resources for students, develop unity and provide a foundation for future research and policy development. It is our charge that participants will be empowered to implement NASM guidelines with effective and sustainable resources.

A number of pioneering colleges already have implemented wellness courses into their curriculum, empowering their students with information to keep them healthy and musically productive.

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