Vol. 1 | No. 10 | By Grecia Melendez
Have you ever stopped and considered what all goes into performing arts from the performer’s perspective? Think about all the muscles used to produce a sound or perform technical passages. What about the mental preparation performers work on order to execute their craft? Vocalists, pianists, clarinetists, and other instrumentalists face unique challenges in order to manipulate their instruments to perform properly. Being a performer can be seen as an occupation. Just as other occupations have their challenges, such as food service workers with repetitive stress injuries and construction workers with back injury, musicians and performers have their own. Understanding the health of performing artists can help prevent serious injuries in their profession.
Not being aware of tension and bad posture when playing an instrument, singing, or dancing, can lead to injuries. A combination of stigma towards seeking help and a lack of knowledge in basic health and physiology about performance can be harmful to a performer’s career. For instance, a clarinetist who struggles to hold the clarinet without using appropriate supportive devices, such as a neck strap, may experience heavy tension on their right hand. If that is left untreated, the hand may eventually ache and feel pain, and may even lead to serious injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. All of the tiny muscles in the hand would be straining to hold the weight of the clarinet, which over time can be serious. Every individual has a unique anatomy, and though there is guidance in proper posture and positioning for playing any instrument, including voice, there may be certain obstacles with their bodies performers have to overcome in order to successfully and safely perform.
Music educators can become the biggest advocates for performing arts health. Since nearly every music educator has some experience in teaching the foundations of performance, such as posture and basic technique, understanding the health of performers and potential injuries and stress can help them make more informed teaching lessons. Being aware of tension and stress while singing or while playing an instrument early on in your playing career can help you prolong the life of your career by taking preventive measures to avoid injuries. The idea of performing arts health is still relatively new but it is an important step in the right direction of supporting performers in their professions. For additional information and resources on performing arts health, check out the links below.