If you've spent any amount of time with me, you've probably heard me talk about gymnastics. It's one of the things I love most and it's one of the ways I get to travel around the world.
What does this have to do with musicians' health? I'll tell you!
Once upon a time, I was the floor manager for the Michigan Men's Gymnastics Team. It was my first exposure to sports at that level. And each week, the athletes had access to
psychologists who gave them tools to manage performance anxiety and other mental health problems,
athletic trainers who worked with them on injury prevention and management,
massage therapists who worked with them to keep their bodies healthy,
nutritionists for fuel optimization, and
physicians to check in and address injuries
The Team Mentality
And really the list could go on and on. I was stunned by the level of care these athletes got and wondered why musicians don't have access to the same. It's not money. Men's gymnastics loses money for each university they are a part of. It's something else.
You see, in athletics, they understand the team mentality – that everyone plays a role in the success of the athlete as a person and as a member of the team. As musicians, we are often loners. We sit for hours and hours alone in a practice room, many of us scared to admit that we are experiencing pain or performance anxiety.
Let me ask you. What if teachers along the way had aligned themselves with you as part of your team? What if in the early stages, they talked about the immense benefits of playing and performing music as well as struggles? What if they helped you understand the warning signs instead of rumbling off the old adage, "No Pain, No Gain," without stopping to think of the consequences? Would it have made a difference?
Music Educators' Responsibility
You may be thinking..."Look, you don't have to convince me to want to be part of the team. I want to help, but I just don't know how to get started."
You are not alone in that thought process. Research on music educators demonstrates that they feel a responsibility to increase health awareness in their students but lack the training to do so. I get it. Sometimes it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to do the bare minimum even though you want to do so much more. That's why I created a book on helping your students when they complain about pain.
It's informative, easy to read, and available for download immediately!
The Studio Handbook
After you read through the book 7 Ways to Help Your Students When They Complain About Pain!, you may want tangible ways to communicate to students that you are on their team. A great way to accomplish this is in a studio handbook.
This is a great place to set expectations. Not to mention, many students are minors and need their parents to be involved in the health decision-making process. So, looping the parents in on expectations is also important!
Some examples you could include in your studio handbook are:
You don't expect your students to play through pain
That baseline audiograms are the best way to monitor hearing health
That sport's psychologists and other types of mental health providers can provide key strategies for combatting performance anxiety
My friend, Michelle, over at TheOpenScore has a great template for studio handbooks that includes musicians' health expectations. If you've been looking to change up your studio handbook, check out her template here.
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Wijsman, S., & Ackermann, B. J. (2018). Educating Australian musicians: Are we playing it safe? Health Promotion International, 34(4), 869–876. https://doi.org/10.1093/ heapro/day030