Physical and psychological wellbeing provide the foundation for any domain of human performance. As performance and environmental demands become greater, there will be corresponding increased demands on both body and mind of the individual. This is well recognised in the performance domains of sport and dance where health education and support is integrated into every aspect of training. Traditionally, this has not been the case for music.
Playing a musical instrument involves an integral physical relationship between the performer and instrument as it is by using particular movement combinations that sound is produced. There are strong parallels between the activities of performing musicians and sports athletes. Both rely on the efficient use of their bodies to maximise performance and they train to do complex sequences of physical actions through concentrated repetition, often for long hours.
However, in Australia the teaching of instrumental music performance at the tertiary level, where many professional musicians and teachers receive their essential performance and teaching skills, lags behind elite sport with regard to gaining a deeper understanding of anatomy or instrumental training from a biomechanical perspective. Little information is usually provided to music students about the impact on muscles and joints or the risks they may face, both to physical and mental health.
The musicians’ body is an integral part of their instrument, and the brain is its command centre. Most musicians ensure their musical instrument is kept in perfect condition, but the same cannot be said for the performers themselves who drive the sound on the instrument. Tuning your body and mind is as important as tuning your instrument for optimal performance. Given that musicians are statistically at high risk of injury, it is vital that occupational health be incorporated into the core music performance curricula at tertiary music schools.
Sound Performers is the independent online learning program produced by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching Musicians' Health National Curriculum Initiative Project, focused on educating young Australian musicians about their occupational health and optimising their performance through healthy practice. The project is run by an interdisciplinary team led by Associate Professor Suzanne Wijsman (University of Western Australia) and Dr Bronwen Ackermann (University of Sydney), that was funded through a Priority Projects grant 2009-2012 by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC, now the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, OLT).
To access Sound Performers click on the link below and request a username and password: