Musicians, Scientists and Clinicians: Mind/body Perspectives. (College Faculty Forum)

By Lehrer, Phyllis A. | American Music Teacher, June-July 2003 | Go to article overview

Musicians, Scientists and Clinicians: Mind/body Perspectives. (College Faculty Forum)


Lehrer, Phyllis A., American Music Teacher


After returning from the MTNA National Conference in Salt Lake City, I flew to Jacksonville, Florida, to attend two days of meetings of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), of which my husband, Paul, a clinical psychologist, was completing his term as president. In addition to being supportive, I was happy to join his effort to promote music performance and research; his idea of a president's party was to invite several psychologist/musicians and me to perform classical music. The final conference celebration was a cabaret. All the performers except me were clinicians, researchers and psychology professors from as far away as Sweden, playing a mix of classical piano solos, duets, chamber music for horn and piano, old standards, barbershop quartet tunes (five men and a stand-in female tenor) and jazz piano played by a psychologist who has a clinical practice and researches Sufi healing practices. During two performances, physiological measures were taken to help understand the interplay between the body and music performance. The information-gathering device was wireless and worn under the pianist's regular clothing.

Biofeedback is the use of monitoring equipment to help patients learn to regulate their bodies. It also helps to assess how the mind and body are interacting. I attended several scientific lectures that explored various applications of biofeedback for people suffering from high blood preyure, headache and pain caused by various types of muscle tension. Also fascinating were sessions on nontraditional methods of healing as practiced in the Middle East, Far East and Brazil, and descriptions of psychotherapy and autogenic training in Japan.

For several years, AAPB has included a Performing Arts Psychophysiology Section. This year's chair was psychologist/piano teacher and MTNA member Marcie Zinn, NCTM. Wellness models, elite athlete approaches to optimal performance and stress management were addressed in an excellent session given by clinical psychologist/French horn player and MTNA member David Sternbach, research professor and director of the Center for Wellness at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia. A study by Zinn was among the posters at the AAPB poster session. One of her piano students suffered cardiac arrest. Although she was resuscitated, she lost the ability to use her left hand. Zinn taught the student tunes for the right hand, but could not affect any improvement in the left. When Zinn began using accompaniment disks on her Clavinova, amazingly, as if the music caused the brain to rewire, the student began using her left hand again. …

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