Playing in Pain Many Musicians Face Challenge to Careers from Aches and Strains

By Patricia Rice Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 27, 1995 | Go to article overview

Playing in Pain Many Musicians Face Challenge to Careers from Aches and Strains


Patricia Rice Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


FOR FOUR YEARS St. Louis Symphony concertmaster Nina Bodnar swept onto the Powell Hall stage to enthusiastic applause. Young and glamorous, she amazed audiences by confidently leading musicians twice her age in final tunings.

But Bodnar's life wasn't so pretty as pictured. She usually was playing in pain.

Tendons and muscles in her neck, shoulders and hand were inflamed from the strain of playing the violin. Eventually pain shimmied her finger's aim. Two years ago, pain kept her from the orchestra's European tour. Last year, pain kept her from most St. Louis Symphony concerts, including its Japanese tour.

In June, she resigned as concertmaster and player. When the St. Louis Symphony opens its season Sept. 15, David Halen will be acting concertmaster.

Bodnar, 33, is not giving up. This summer in Colorado, she has been finding ways to use her hands and arms differently so she can play without pain. Her husband, the orchestra's principal cellist, John Sant' Ambrogio, is buoyed by her determination. He hopes she will join him playing for an hour or so in chamber concert here this fall.

Bodnar's injury is a dramatic example of a growing problem among professional musicians. At some point, three of four orchestral players experience upper body pain severe enough to prevent them from working, says a survey of players in 45 major orchestras. Younger players report injuries more often than older players. Over a third of all musicians have missed more than two months of work. At least 20 of the 110 St. Louis orchestra members have taken at least a month off because of pain.

Soloists also suffer. Next spring, symphonygoers here will hear Composer William Bolcom's "Piano Concerto for Two Left Hands" played by concert pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman. Bolcom wrote it for his friends because the careers of both pianists have been thwarted by their pain and loss of control in their right hands.

Musicians' pain is not new. Centuries ago musicians' diaries lamented missed notes because of cold hands. In 1887, a frustrated doctor wrote about struggling to get pianists in pain to rest hands long enough to heal. Playing Under Pressure

But the problems are becoming epidemic, doctors say. Musicians play longer schedules. The St. Louis Symphony's schedule includes 200 concerts a year, and as many as 40 recording sessions. They also have two or three rehearsals most weeks. A generation ago, they played 15 weeks a year and recorded on occasional years.

"Musicians play new music that didn't exist 50 years ago where string players have to play harder, louder, to balance out the brass," said Dr. Richard D. Norris, director of the National Arts Medicine section of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

Competition adds stress. Getting an orchestra job, and keeping one, has become tougher as arts funding falters and orchestras fold.

Over the past 10 years, a handful of clinics in this country and Germany and England have developed a sub-specialty called arts medicine. Some doctors focus on hurt dancers, singers and painters, but most of the work is with musicians. Music conservatories, the musicians' union and instrument manufacturers' trade associations call in these arts medical specialists to teach preventative care and to help with fingering alterations for some instruments.

For years, many doctors pooh-poohed musicians' injuries as stage fright or imagination. But now rehabilitation experts have evidence: They can see musicians' inflamed tendons on magnetic resonance imaging screens.

They also can see a range of other problems. Woodwind and brass players suffer pain from jaw and joint dysfunction, tooth problems and the loss of muscular strength in lips and tongue. Many lose hearing. The high intensity at rehearsals and concerts makes orchestra musicians just as vulnerable to hearing loss as rock musicians.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Playing in Pain Many Musicians Face Challenge to Careers from Aches and Strains
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.