Academic journal article Notes

Reaching beyond Traditional Boundaries: The Librarian and Musicians' Health

Academic journal article Notes

Reaching beyond Traditional Boundaries: The Librarian and Musicians' Health

Article excerpt


Ever since Gary Graffman and Leon Fleisher, both renowned pianists, made public disclosures of their playing-related injuries in 1981, the many health issues that are faced by musicians in their profession have gradually come to light. The research and study by medical professionals, musicians, and educators that has followed continues to blossom, bringing with it an ever-growing body of literature and educational programs. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the National Association of Schools of Music included the first language in its handbook encouraging schools of music to address these issues. In response, additional research and projects have been undertaken that have led to some important changes in educational approaches in a variety of music programs. This article provides an overview of the field of musician wellness, examines its history and literature, and details the traditional and nontraditional roles that have been played by the author in various aspects of health promotion for musicians. Collection development, circulation and replacement patterns, and reference sources are discussed along with information about the course, Mind and Body Health for Musicians, and the 2004 Health Promotion in Schools of Music conference. A list of essential resources for collections and reference along with information on wellness courses taught in the United States are provided.


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
--Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Music history is full of evidence that musicians have serious health concerns that affect their profession. Traditionally, these stories have been told in the context of describing the eccentricities of great creative geniuses: Beethoven lost his hearing; Chopin's tenuous health affected his playing; Schumann had a self-inflicted hand injury, attempted suicide, and committed himself to a mental institution. More often, the many musicians who struggled throughout the centuries as well as those who struggle today with injuries and other physical and mental-health concerns have relegated their problems to the shadows in secrecy. This began to change when the playing-related injuries of Gary Graffman and Leon Fleisher, both renowned pianists, were made public in a New York Times article in 1981. (1) Since that time, information about the many health issues that are faced by musicians in their profession has gradually come into the light.

Within the decade following the publication of the Times article, medical practitioners hosted their first Symposium on the Medical Problems of Musicians, the first issue of the journal Medical Problems of Performing Artists was published, results of a major research survey on the medical issues of orchestral musicians among the forty-eight professional orchestras belonging to the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians was published, (2) and the Performing Arts Medical Association (PAMA) was established. Research and information dissemination continued to expand in the 1990s as an online musician-health survey sponsored by the University of North Texas was undertaken; the Textbook of Performing Arts Medicine was published; and an ever growing body of programs and literature documenting the research, study, and experiences of medical practitioners, musicians, and educators emerged. (3) These three distinct groups share similar interests in and concerns about musician wellness, yet they each have a very different focus.

The group with the largest output and earliest publications is the medical professionals. Although most of their publications are clinical in nature, some of their later writings have an educational focus. Their educational programs and materials can be divided into two categories: one goal is to train other medical practitioners, and the other more recent goal is to educate musicians. …

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