Magazine article American Music Teacher

Empowering Musicians: Teaching, Transforming, Living: Expand Your Influence: Enhance Health and Performance in Music Students

Magazine article American Music Teacher

Empowering Musicians: Teaching, Transforming, Living: Expand Your Influence: Enhance Health and Performance in Music Students

Article excerpt

"You play in a bar room, people are smoking, there are long hours, practicing, you carry equipment to your gig. The idea of all of this (health needs) is foreign to the music community, from the conservatory level to the level of street performers and everything in between."

--Jon Batiste, jazz musician, artist-in-residence, Athletes and the Arts

Initiated in 2008 and formally launched in 2013, Athletes and the Arts (AATA) is a multi-organizational initiative recognizing that athletes exist throughout the performing arts community and that established performance, wellness and injury prevention research for sport athletes also is applicable to performing artists. As noted in the quote above, health and wellness are generally foreign concepts in the performing arts community, including the students and parents you work with.

Performing artists are athletes. Just like "sport" athletes they:

* Practice or perform almost every day

* Play through pain

* Compete in challenging environments

* Experience little "off season"

* Face extreme competition

* Face real risk of career-threatening injury

Yet, performing artists rarely have access to the injury prevention, nutrition, and practice and competition guidelines afforded most sport athletes, even at the youth level. Performing artists (musicians, dancers, singers, conductors, actors, marching band members of all ages) and their instructors need this information, along with education and research associated with unique performance-related problems.

Why the concern?

* In one year, 64 percent of a World Class Drum Corps had members who developed a stress fracture.

* Fifty percent of all musicians have some form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

* Seventy-five percent of orchestra instrumentalists will develop at least one musculoskeletal disorder from playing during their lifetimes.

* In one study, 79 percent of music students reported a history of playing-related pain before entering university music training.

MTNA is an active member of the AATA initiative, and its members have a unique opportunity to influence the development and longevity of musicians and their art for generations to come. Contrary to most sport athletes, musicians (both amateur and professional) and teachers have careers that extend many decades.

One of the early successes of Athletes and the Arts, particularly the Performing Arts Medicine Association organization, was working with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) to create a standard around health and safety in 2012. The standard, which applies to almost 650 schools of music within the United States, reads, in part:

It is the obligation of the institution that all students in music programs be fully apprised of health and safety issues, hazards, and procedures inherent in practice, performance, teaching and listening.

Music program policies, protocols, and operations must reflect attention to injury prevention and to the relationship among musicians health.

For NASM and these schools, which produce 100,000 future performers and/ or teachers annually, this is a significant change from most previous training.

Imagine if this wellness education began even earlier so that by the time young students--your students--arrive at a music school or conservatory, these concepts were already well ingrained.

Imagine if you devoted 5 minutes to a one-hour lesson or 30 minutes four times a year to a discussion related to health and wellness with your students.

Imagine if you also shared this information with your students' parents.

You might ask, "Why me?" I say, "If not you, then who?" You are opening the door to a grand adventure that can enhance the lives not only of your students but countless others who appreciate music as an international language. …

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