John R. Beck is a percussionist, faculty member at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC, and President of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS). Earlier this year, John wrote an article that was published in “Rhythm Scene,” the PAS newsletter. In the article, Beck discusses recent experiments that aim to measure sound levels in various musical environments, and provides information on earplug effectiveness and options. Ultimately, he calls for percussionists and all musicians to be proactive about their hearing health, and provides some useful links for additional resources.Read More →
Are you stressed? Do you have trouble getting to sleep? Are you in pain? Music can be used to address all of these issues, as well as many others. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) developed and recently launched a Music and Wellness website…Read More →
Recently the League of American Orchestras announced the recipients of 22
Education and Community Investment Grants from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. Applicants for the re-granting program came from every orchestra budget group. The initial 204 applicants were narrowed by an independent advisory panel to 44 semi-finalists; all were then judged on six criteria: the degree of innovation and relevance to community needs; the orchestra’s capacity to deliver; the of the program appropriateness to mission and community; the appropriateness and strength of partnership(s); the ability to assess outcomes; and professional development for musicians and staff.
According to the League’s press release, “A prerequisite for qualifying orchestras was the existence of partnerships with local cultural and/or community organizations, such as schools or social service providers. This year’s grants … will fund both new and established innovative programs including: long-term in-school partnerships and afterschool programs; health and wellness initiatives in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes; and programs for the underserved and underprivileged, including incarcerated youth.Read More →
I met Dr. Lisa Wong at the airport in Dallas, returning from the 2012 League of American Orchestras conference. At the check-in counter, I discovered that she was flying to Boston on the same plane, so I asked her which orchestra she was with. When I learned that she played with the Longwood Symphony, I mentioned that I had heard that someone in her orchestra had written a book about it, and could she put me in touch with the author. She unzipped her suitcase and pulled out a copy of her book, “Scales to Scalpels.” And it turns out that she lives quite close to my mother – she and her husband, Lynn Chang, dropped me off, saving me a late-night trolley ride. What an interesting set of coincidences!
Lisa’s book is a fascinating account of the formation and work of the Longwood Symphony, her own passage through music and medicine, and lots of information about the powerful healing aspects of music. She discusses her trips to Venezuela with her daughter as part of her experiences with El Sistema, and gives us lots of information about how the ear works and how the brain processes information and music.
But most importantly, she tells us stories that inspire: about Ruth, who was awakened from a catatonic state by a therapist’s turning on the local classical music station; about the children at the burn center who were so inspired by the famous violinist who himself had survived a terrible fire as a child; about the medical musicians, all with relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s, who were amazed at the reaction to their playing for a group of Alzheimer’s patients. Lisa’s book will truly reinforce your perceptions of the power of music to heal.
Lisa came to Hartford recently to give a presentation at the Medical Society of Hartford about her book and to talk about the many connections between music and medicine. She played a few movements from the Third Bach Suite on her viola during her presentation. The doctors in attendance were rapt, both to listen to her music and to hear her words. I’ve adapted passages from her book, her remarks in Hartford, and our subsequent conversation into an interview about the Longwood Symphony.Read More →
Janet Horvath has revised her book, Playing (less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians, and the new edition is now available. Janet has updated the book and added 100 pages to include new information for educators and training, information for jazzers and rock musicians, new ergonomic products, an extensive hearing chapter, new photos and much more. Polyphonic is pleased to excerpt a section on static loading and the fatigue that muscles endure (and the damage that can be done) with prolonged periods of static positions.
I wish every conductor out there would read the first few paragraphs of this excerpt and adjust their rehearsal schedules accordingly! Janet provides invaluable tips for alleviating some of the pains associated with playing prolonged soft and slow passages, as well other posture issues.
Janet’s book received the Gold Medal in the 2009 Independent Book Publisher National Awards in the health category. Congratulations, Janet! For more information, click here.
Janet has graciously offered a 15% discount to registered Polyphonic readers. Ordering details are at the end of this article.Read More →
My college friend and ROPA colleague, Sherill Roberts, has been telling me about Barbara Conable for many years. Sherill is a cellist who had to overcome some pretty serious health issues in her past, and thus she is particularly attuned to the needs of her body in terms of movement. She recently became certified to teach the Andover Educator Body Mapping course, and suggested that I contact Amy Likar, who has taken over as the group leader now that Barbara Conable has semi-retired.
Amy explains what Body Mapping is and how it can help your playing, and then presents a fascinating and inspiring interview she conducted with Barbara.Read More →
Janet Horvath, Minnesota Orchestra cellist, offers some sensible guidelines for how to achieve new goals with our instruments without hurting our bodies doing so.Read More →
Janet Horvath, Minnesota Orchestra cellist, offers some simple techniques — her “Onstage Tricks” — for keeping you limber while performing. It’s all too frequent that nerves or an upcoming solo or a repetitive passage can cause us to tense up, often without realizing it. Here are several easy methods for relieving that stress.Read More →
One of our most precious assets, as musicians, is our hearing, yet we are constantly endangering our hearing merely by going to work. Janet Horvath, Minnesota Orchestra cellist, describes some of the most common hearing injuries and offers some excellent advice as to what you can do to protect your hearing.Read More →
Among every musician’s worst fear is the loss of hearing – we all cringe when we think of Beethoven’s hearing loss and his having to be turned around to see the audience reaction to one of his symphony premiers. Age naturally brings on some hearing loss, especially in men, but there are things we can do to actively protect our hearing. Janet Horvath presents 10 solid strategies (did you know that humming can help prevent that cymbal crash behind you from harming your hearing?) to help you keep your hearing at peak for as long as possible.Read More →
Lucinda Lewis, Principal Horn with the New Jersey Symphony and author of Broken Embouchures, explores the symptoms and treatment of embouchure overuse syndrome. She explains how the basic mechanical structure of the embouchure works while playing, and how it can become damaged and disabled by an episode of overuse.
Cindy lists the hallmark physical symptoms of embouchure overuse, and denotes the most common playing problems that result from overuse. One of the most important issues to consider is sensory feedback, which is critical to brass playing. Finally, she offers a list of clues that can indicate that you are developing embouchure overuse syndrome. The only treatment is mechanical rehabilitation, which can be frustrating but, if done correctly, can restore the embouchure to proper functioning.Read More →
Musicians are always pressed for time, and in need of practice time - often a precious commodity. In her next health tip, Janet Horvath stresses the importance of taking the time to warm up BEFORE you start in on that horrible passage you have to learn by tonight, in order to prevent injury.Read More →
Practicing is something all we musicians have done since we were little kids, so we’re all experts, right? Not exactly. Whichever scale method, etude book, or repertoire you prefer during your daily practice time, Janet Horvath reminds you about the importance of taking care of your body as well. She presents five rules you should practice that will help prevent injuries while you practice.Read More →
In her 2nd “Playing Less Injured” tip, Janet Horvath explains how to treat your tired and overworked muscles – sometimes icing is the right way to go, but other times heat is better.Read More →
In her first “Playing Less Injured” tip, Janet Horvath explains that musicians with joint laxity (or “double-jointedness”) are much more prone to injuries while playing than those of us without this condition. Read on to learn how to lessen the possibilities of injury, if you have this condition.Read More →
Janet Horvath, Minnesota Orchestra’s Associate Principal cellist and author of Playing (less) Hurt - An Injury Prevention Guide For Musicians, has agreed to excerpt parts of her wonderful book for polyphonic.org.
Janet’s first column addresses the issue of young players and whether hours of playing (repetitive action) can damage developing muscles and bones. She presents some basic rules to prevent overuse injuries, and offers sound advice to teachers and parents.
Janet goes on to discuss ergonomic issues, such as choosing the right-sized instrument and accessories (shoulder pads, chin rests, etc.), and sitting correctly. Jaw pain is a frequent complaint of violinists and violists, and Janet has many suggestions for dealing with it.
Finally, Janet presents an Injury Susceptibility Quiz, which can help you determine if you are at risk for a playing injury.
Polyphonic.org is very pleased that Janet has agreed to share her wealth of knowledge with all of us through our website. Check back often for additions to Janet’s column.Read More →
Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener needs no introduction to many orchestra musicians - she is arguably “the” pre-eminent physician in the field of music medicine. She is on the faculty of Northwestern University Medical School and is the founder of the Medical Program for Performing Artists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she edits the journal, Medical Problems of Performing Artists.
Samantha George and I asked Dr. Alice to write an overview of some of the medical symptoms encountered by instrumental musicians, and how one goes about finding the good specialized care required by musicians. The good news is that a lot of our problems will go away by themselves, but Dr. Alice has a lot of excellent advice about self-diagnosing our problems.
She warns us about “diagnosis by stand partner” and the reliability (or lack thereof) of medical information you can find on the Internet, and discusses some alternative care approaches. In summary, she asserts that diagnosing musicians’ medical problems requires “a unique combination of medical skill and musical knowledge” and offers suggestions of where to find such care.
This is a must-read article for all instrumentalists!Read More →
In his second article, Bill Hunt, addresses one of the most commonly-asked tax question for musicians: “How do I depreciate my instrument?” Bill explains the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System, which is divided into two basic systems: the General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). Read on for a concise explanation of a most timely topic.
Send us your performing artist-related tax question, so Bill can address it in a future column.Read More →
Penny Anderson Brill, a violist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, has been developing a music and wellness program for orchestra musicians for the past six years. She has a lot of experience performing in a variety of health care settings.
In this article, Penny shares some tips she has learned over the years while performing for patients in a hospital or other healthcare institution. Her advice ranges from common sense hygiene (wash your hands frequently) to repertoire suggestions and suggestions for talking to individual patients.Read More →
Playing a string instrument is a true joy, but is fraught with all sorts of potential health issues, from repetitive stress injuries to general aches and pains. Samantha George, Associate Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has had her share of violin-related health issues. She worked closely with Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener, the Music Medicine expert, to overcome her own problem and, in the course of healing herself, became quite conversant with many of the issues that confront string players.
In this introductory article, Samantha offers some basic, practical advice on how string players can avoid some common injuries, and what you should do if you find yourself in pain.Read More →
Lucinda Lewis, French hornist with the New Jersey Symphony and author of Broken Embouchures, discusses how to apply famous embouchure methods to your playing. She quotes from an interview she conducted with Laurie Frink, Carmen Caruso’s protégée, and warns against using Caruso’s exercises without fully understanding his entire method or working with a properly-trained instructor.Read More →
The life of a string player is fraught with all sorts of potential health hazards. In her second article, Samantha George, Associate Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, defines some of the most common maladies afflicting string players: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and focal dystonia. She describes common symptoms and offers some advice about treatment, along with links to some helpful websites.Read More →
For brass players, mouthpiece pressure is a hot topic! Most have been warned against it since they started playing. But is it really so bad?
Lucinda Lewis, French hornist with the New Jersey Symphony and author of Broken Embouchures, a book dealing with the overuse and performance-related injuries of brass players, offers a second look at mouthpiece pressure. She cites the lack of scientific evidence that mouthpiece pressure is damaging, and discusses the mechanics of how healthy playing can protect brass players from mouthpiece-pressure damage.Read More →