Musician Health in Education

brusky paulaMusician Health in Education Task Force
Paula Brusky, Chair

In December 2011 I inquired about creating a group within CMS to discuss musician health concerns. In February 2012 David Williams and the CMS Board created a task force to bring the topic of musician health and wellness to the CMS membership. The first two people invited to the discussion were Sang-Hie Lee and Aaron Williamon.  At the Board’s recommendation Kris Chesky was invited. To bring about a diverse conversation on the topic of musician health and wellness within CMS membership, a newsletter announcement called all interested members to join, from this we added: Vanessa Cornett-Murtada, Gail Berenson, and Louise Atkins. Our membership was also expanded by Chesky inviting Stephen Austin, Judy Palac, and Heather Winter Hunnicutt. The working mission statement for the task force was:

Mission: The Musician Health in Education task force is to serve as a resource for educators and increase visibility for this critical topic. With injury rates increasing every year this task force was formed to provide CMS membership with practical methods to teach wellness in classrooms and private studios. We will stay abreast of the research and Performing Arts Medicine Association activities to report back to CMS members. Our aim is not to duplicate the work of other organizations but to serve as a resource center for CMS members by providing articles, panel discussions, and papers in/at CMS venues. We serve as a liaison to make information accessible and relevant to CMS membership by providing opportunities for injury prevention application and holistic musician health.

Prior to the 2012 CMS National Conference the task force members corresponded via email with ideas on how to bring the topic to CMS membership. It be came clear during these discussions that there was great diversity of opinion on what role music educators should have in regard to musician health and wellness and how best to serve CMS membership. An agenda was established for a meeting in San Diego to discuss the relevance of the topic to CMS membership and possible directions for a permanent committee. The focus was to “integrate the topic of musician health into the fabric of our teaching.”

On Thursday, November 15th the Musician Health In Education Task Force met. The following members were present: Stephen Austin, Gail Berenson, Kris Chesky, Vanessa Cornett- Murtada, and Brusky. Members that were unable to attend the meeting but submitted written contributions include: Aaron Williamon and Louise Atkins.

This meeting was highly productive and resulted in some clear ideas on how to bring musician health and wellness to the CMS membership:

• Define the topic as it pertains to CMS members and inform membership about the field.

• Provide a broad overview of what is going on, how it is currently being addressed and who needs to come to the table. Examples of how large the table could be include: Are hearing concerns during rehearsal and performance something a composer should consider while writing a work? What is the role of the administrator in making sure school programs are properly identifying risk areas for music students? What is the role of the applied teacher in student diagnosis or when they need to refer the students to an outside practitioner? What training would be needed to support a private teacher in this effort?

• Highlight research practices in presentations and information provided to membership

• Help the topic permeate the culture in a music school. Example, discuss brass injuries in a brass method class instead of just having a dedicated course on the subject.

• Direct membership to the resources that are currently available (like from Voice foundation, MTNA, NCKP, PAMA, etc).

• Provide membership with relevant information about how and when to select specialists. For example, if you are building a network of professional practitioners to help your students, what types of questions, qualifications or expertise should be expected from practitioners in the referral network.

• Increase attendance of applied faculty at CMS conferences by offering specific topics relevant to their needs to address health, wellness & safety.

Task force members believe that the National Conference should be the primary mechanism for reaching out to CMS members, both through papers and presentations but also with pre- conference workshops. In the future, we hope to have a dedicated thread of topics.

Also discussed at the meeting were the benefits of establishing a permanent committee within CMS to address this area. The task force felt strongly that a committee would be a key step in being able to bring this topic successfully to CMS membership. The committee size needs to reflect the scope of this interdisciplinary topic. The greatest difficulty the task force faced was to agree upon the most appropriate name for any future established committee.

Many aspects had to be taken into consideration when discussing a possible future name for a permanent committee. Many musical organizations have some type of committee that looks at health and wellness. The main terms in the field (health, wellness, medicine) all have positive and negative connotation depending on the audience. When discussing name considerations, the task force felt that all of these terms left out one very important thing: that there IS responsibility in college music programs to have some level of competency to minimize health and safety risks in the program. No other association is currently addressing this. NASM recently weakened their wording on safety and PAMA doesn’t support their new language. We believe this provides a very special avenue for CMS to enter the discussion.

"Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness Committee" is our suggested title for a permanent committee. We settled on this name because it is more encompassing than wellness or musician health alone. It also provides the opportunity for external funding from organizations like the National Institute of Health which would clearly understand this wording and take financial interest in the arts. Having “wellness” in the title also makes it comfortable for CMS membership.

What makes CMS a special place is that educators come to learn and share. The problem we see across the health and wellness fields is that researchers and medical practitioners are often presenting to an audience of like minded-people. Organizations, like MTNA, are starting to reach out to studio teachers with pre-conference workshops but these are only happening on a small scale regionally. CMS would provide a huge service to the topic by highlighting it as one of committees within its organization. This would provide a forum to openly discuss the topic as it relates to teaching and college music programs in an environment of collegiality.  This does not exist anywhere else within the field.

The task force incorporated a lot of different perspectives to provide this unified front. We hope the Board will strongly consider establishing a permanent committee so we can bring the topic of occupations safety, health and wellness to the CMS membership.