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Professional Associations: Your Indispensable Resource for Musicians’ Health Information

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As an eager college student majoring in piano, I felt it was a badge of honor to practice eight hours a day on the weekends. I thought I was doing what every dedicated music major was supposed to be doing. In those days there was little in my curriculum that offered information about efficient and healthy practicing strategies, or any musicians' health issues for that matter. Years later I heard the words, "less is more," and learned techniques to use my practice time more efficiently and productively. It wasn't until two very prominent pianists, Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman, suffered hand injuries serious enough to impact their performance careers, that the word "wellness" entered our lexicon.

As professional music associations' wellness committees began to launch, it has been interesting to see how they have evolved over time. Initially their primary focus was on recovery from injury, perhaps due to the Fleisher and Graffman injuries. Gradually, the focus expanded to include injury-preventive strategies. Today's committees have progressed still further, embracing ways to help students maximize their performance potential, helping them develop their technique to project the composer's ideas effortlessly and to focus on sharing the emotions of the music with the listener. There is also greater emphasis on teachers focusing on the whole person. Of course, our ultimate goal is for our students to develop a love of music and wish to pursue a lifetime of music making, whether for pleasure or professionally. 

How it all began

I attended my first wellness workshop in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation sponsored an Arts Medicine Symposium entitled "Medical Problems of the Performing Artist." It was a fascinating event and one that really captured my attention. So began my education in the field of musicians' health, which expanded to include course work and attendance at numerous workshops, events in which I continue to engage.

Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)

In 1990, MTNA sponsored "An Ounce of Prevention" at MTNA headquarters in Cincinnati. Several PAMA (Performing Arts Medicine Association) founding members served as the clinicians, including physicians Alice Brandfonbrener, Richard Lederman, and Robert Sataloff. It was very exciting to be in the presence of some of the most renowned physicians in this field at the time. Twenty years later MTNA was still advocating for musicians' health by hosting two national wellness conferences in conjunction with the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Association. The 2008 and 2010 CFMTA/MTNA Wellness Symposia, "Empowering Musicians: Mind, Body, and Spirit," took place in New York City.

National Conference on Piano Pedagogy (NCPP)

In 1988 I received a call from Richard Chronister, co-founder of NCPP, asking if I would be interested in putting together a wellness committee for the National Conference on Piano Pedagogy. I was honored to initiate the NCPP Committee on the Prevention of Medical Problems, which remained in place from 1989–1996, at which time NCPP temporarily stopped operating. 

National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP)

After a 5-year hiatus, the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy was launched. I was excited to be able to re-establish the NCKP Committee on Wellness for the Pianist, which remains active to this day.

College Music Society (CMS)

In 2014 at the annual CMS meeting in St. Louis, Dr. Patricia Campbell, the President of CMS, asked me to convene a group of music educators attending the conference with an interest in wellness. The rest was history, with the CMS Committee on Musicians' Health officially established in 2015. The committee has been extremely active since its inception.

I hope you will all take advantage of the wealth of information that is available today through our professional associations. There is much to be gained for ourselves and for our students. Wishing everyone good health and much joyous music making!

NCKP and the Frances Clark Center: keyboardpedagogy.org

MTNA: mtna.org

CMS: music.org

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