Statement on Health and Safety in the Performing Arts
The physical and auditory aspects of music learning and performance involve issues of health and safety that may differ from some other areas of academic study. Although all students are "personally respnsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to themselves before, during, and after musical study" (NASM Handbook, 2012-13, p. 67), the Department of Music is committed to educating students about these issues and making reasonable health/safety accommodations upon request.
Musicians Hearing Health
Since good hearing is crucial to musicians, and various studies suggest that prolonged exposure to excessive levels of sound can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, the Department of Music provides earplugs for students in ensemble rehearsals.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
In simple terms, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is defined as cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) stemming from prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements. The result is damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves of the neck, forearm, and hand, which can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or impairment of motor control.
As with all health-related issues, it is wise to eat well, exercise, listen to your body, and avoid destructive behavior. However, there are some specific precautions you can take to help prevent the onset of RSI.
Simple ways to reduce your risk of developing RSI:
1. TAKE BREAKS when practicing!
2. Use good posture.
3. Exercise regularly. Include strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises. Yoga and Pilates are especially helpful.
4. Realize that you are not invincible. RSI can happen to you. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
The promotion of vocal health is of the utmost importance to the choral/vocal faculty at Muskingum University. We strive to protect the voices of our singers by teaching proper vocal technique in voice lessons and choirs alike. Issues such as posture, breathing, hydration, and physical well-being are routinely discussed with all voice students.
Additionally, we provide Muskingum singers access to the following list of vocal health tips created by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA):
- Vocal health is important for all musicians and essential to lifelong success for singers.
- Understanding basic care of the voice is essential for musicians who speak, sing, and rehearse or teach others.
- Practicing, rehearsing, and performing music is physically demanding.
- Musicians are susceptible to numerous vocal disorders.
- Many vocal disorders and conditions are preventable and/or treatable.
- Sufficient warm-up time is important.
- Begin warming up in mid-range, and then slowly work outward to vocal pitch extremes.
- Good posture, adequate breath support, and correct physical techniques are essential.
- Regular breaks during practice and rehearsal are vital in order to prevent undue physical or vocal stress and strain.
- It is important to set a reasonable time limit on the amount of time that you will practice each day.
- Avoid sudden increases in practice times.
- Know your voice and its limits, and avoid overdoing it or misusing it.
- Maintain healthy habits. Safeguard your physical and mental health.
- Drink plenty of water in order to keep your vocal folds adequately lubricated.
- Limit your use of alcohol and avoid smoking.
- Day-to-day decisions can impact your vocal health, both now and in the future. Since vocal strain and a myriad of other injuries can occur in and out of school, you also need to take care of your own vocal health on a daily basis. Avoid shouting, screaming, or other strenuous vocal use.
- If you are concerned about your personal vocal health, talk with a medical professional.
- If you are concerned about your vocal health in relationship to your program of study, consult the appropriate contact person at your institution.
At Muskingum University, music professors address the topic of performance anxiety with their students regularly at lessons. An instructor also presents a lecture on this subject at least once every semester at the weekly performance seminar. In these presentations, types of stress experienced in performing music are often compared with those associated when playing sports. In addition, the manner in which the brain tends to function under pressure is also addressed. Naturally, students are given advice on how to cope with performance anxiety. It is stressed that what we need to strive is to bring to the stage is our “natural” way of playing. In other words, we need to be in a “zone”. This is when we play at our highest level. In order to do this, students are encouraged prior to a performance to:
- be well rested;
- be warmed-up very well;
- keep any mind- chatter and thoughts to a minimum; and
- trust yourself and not doubt yourself in anyway
During a performance, students are encouraged to:
(1) continue to be confident; and
(2) not think in anyway, as words (we think with words), under intense and pressure situations, will get in the way of making music.
Students can find valuable information relating to this topic in the following books:
Performing in a Zone by Jon Gorrie
The Inner game of Tennis by Timothy Gallaway
The Inner game of Music by Barry Green
Soprano On Her Head by Eloise Ristad