Musicians’ Health Webinars 2019-2020

"The Role of Collegiate Faculty and Administrators in Addressing Musicians’ Health"

College Music Society Committee on Musicians’ Health
Gail Berenson, Chair

Shortly after the College Music Society’s Committee on Musicians’ Health was established in 2015, we were privileged to begin presenting a series of webinars on the broad topic of musicians’ health, offering administrators, faculty and students a diverse range of practical strategies for addressing these important topics within the music curriculum.  These take on particular importance as the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), in collaboration with the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), published a series of Health Advisories on the topics of hearing health, musculoskeletal health, vocal health and mental health, with the intention of urging postsecondary schools and departments of music to pursue ways to integrate this important information into the music curriculum.  Since the first Webinar posted on the CMS website in December 2015, the Committee on Musicians’ Health has archived a total of twenty webinars, with six additional webinars to be added in 2019-2020.  We are pleased to work with CMS in developing this valuable resource to help address these essential issues.  Earlier Webinars can be viewed here.

CMS Musicians’ Health Webinars
Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

September 13, 2019:  Dr. Aaron Willamon
Better Practice: New Perspectives on Musicians’ Health, Wellbeing, and Performance
This webinar will explore musicians’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward health, including new research on common health problems and their causes and implications for performance. 

Dr. Aaron Williamon is Professor of Performance Science at the Royal College of Music (RCM) where he directs the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership of the RCM and Imperial College London. His research focuses on skilled performance and applied scientific initiatives that inform music learning and teaching, as well as the impact of music and the arts on society. Aaron is founder of the International Symposium on Performance Science, chief editor of Performance Science (a Frontiers journal), and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and the UK’s Higher Education Academy (FHEA). In 2008, he was awarded an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music (HonRCM) by HRH The Prince of Wales. 


October 4, 2019:  Rachael Gates
Vocal health specialist, Dr. Rachael Gates, will guide participants through exercises, diet and lifestyle choices to help optimize the speaking voice and keep it healthy in this practical, voices-on lecture. Actors, singers, speech-language pathologists, students, teachers and anyone who wants to use his/her voice more effectively are welcome!

Dr. Rachael Gates, Soprano, Opera Director and Vocal Health Specialist, Dr. Rachael Gates has sung in Germany, Russia, Italy and throughout the United States. Dr. Gates was Assistant Opera Director at Northwestern University, taught at the University of Hartford, and guest directed operas for Yale University. She currently teaches voice at Grand Valley State University and public speaking at Michigan State University. She is also the voice specialist for the College Music Society Committee on Musicians’ Health and the Michigan State University Musicians’ Wellness Team. She pioneered what is now a Singing Health Specialization at The Ohio State University Medical Center with laryngologist L. Arick Forrest, MD and Kerrie Obert CCC-SLP. Dr. Gates holds degrees in music from Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and The Ohio State University. Her book, The Owner’s Manual to the Voice: A Guide for Singers and Other Professional Voice Users (Oxford 2013) is available on and at The Metropolitan Opera Shop.


November 8, 2019:  Dr. James Litzelman      
Musician, Heal Thyself—Developing and Maintaining Healthy Practice Habits
Sitting and breathing properly while practicing is essential for us to remain injury-free, and one of the biggest problems facing musicians is playing with unnecessary tension.  Discover “the three R’s of Muscular Tension” and how to apply this to your daily practice sessions, permitting a lifetime of healthy music making.

James Litzelman, DMA, NCTM, enjoys a successful career as a pianist, teacher, and lecturer, teaching piano and piano pedagogy at The Catholic University of America since 1993. He has performed and lectured in the United States, Mexico, Europe, China and Russia.  Litzelman was diagnosed with focal dystonia in 1994 and through retraining he has returned to performing as a pianist. This retraining has focused heavily on the use of symmetrical inversion as a practice strategy, a treatment modality for in which he has been a pioneer. As a result of his diagnosis, he has spent the last 25 years investigating ways in which pianists may play in a more physiologically correct way, allowing injured pianists to become healed, and keeping healthy pianists from becoming injured.  He regularly discusses these issues in presentations at state and national conferences on topics related to musicians’ wellness.

Litzelman is currently the chair of the editorial committee for the American Music Teacher magazine, and in addition to his work at Catholic University, he maintains an active studio at his home in Arlington, Virginia, where his students have distinguished themselves in state and national competitions.


January 10, 2020:  Jacqueline Herbein
Tune In to Your Self with Therapeutic Stretching and Restorative Breathwork
Musicians often neglect to “tune in” to themselves – listening to and consciously interpreting signals from their bodies, at and away from instruments. This webinar will guide you through key therapeutic stretches for the upper body and breath techniques for balancing the stress response system, thereby awakening and enhancing body consciousness.     

Jacqueline Herbein, NCTM, has become known for her creative approach in unraveling musicians’ pain and injury issues by working with biofeedback, imagery and alternative therapies to awaken connections within the body.  Her articles have been published in The American Music Teacher, The Canadian Music Teacher and Clavier Companion journals and she regularly presents sessions on technique, perception and wellness at state, national and international conferences.  She considers the development of physical perception, at and away from instruments, to be a cornerstone of her teaching and regularly uses ProformaVision technology (sEMG biofeedback) as a teaching enhancement.  Teaching certification in therapeutic yoga and the Embodied Breath, along with extensive independent work in the Alexander Technique heighten the movement insights she brings to her work. A Certificate in Anatomy and Physiology from the Massage Therapy Institute of Western Pennsylvania provides a solid academic foundation.  Honored with the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association and the Westmoreland Symphony Teacher of the Year awards, Jackie regularly works with teachers and students of all ages and performance levels both in private lessons and master classes.  As a pianist, she is active as a soloist and ensemble performer in Western Pennsylvania.


February 7, 2020:  Dr. Paola Savvidou
The 8 Dimensions of Music Students’ Wellness: How Faculty Can Support and Promote a Life-Study-Work Balance
This webinar explores the 8 dimensions of wellness and some of the primary barriers music students face in incorporating them into their lives. Key takeaways will include approaches to difficult conversations and resources faculty can use to support and promote better balance in their students.

Paola Savvidou, DMA, NCTM, serves as Wellness Initiative Program Manager and Adjunct Lecturer in Piano at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. She develops partnerships within the University of Michigan health services and beyond to provide education, injury-preventive services and recovery support for students, faculty and staff. She also teaches the “Wellness for the Performing Artist” course and runs the Time for Me: Group Piano for Adult Beginners program.

She frequently presents research on the topic of wellness in the applied lesson at prominent conferences including the MTNA National Conference, the International Society for Music Education Conference, College Music Society’s International Conference, and the European Piano Teachers Association. Her work has been awarded Article of the Year through MTNA two years in a row; in 2015 for her article "In Search of the 'Perfect' Musical Performance" (AMT) and in 2016 for her interdisciplinary research article "Assessing Injury Risk in Pianists: Using Objective Measures to Promote Self-Awareness" (eJournal). She has also published in the Piano Pedagogy Forum, MMTA NOTES and Clavier Companion. She co-authored At the Piano with Yoga with Haley Myers; a collection of duets for beginning piano students coupled with yoga poses.

Dr. Savvidou is a member of the New Muse Piano Duo with Jonathan Kuuskoski; an ensemble dedicated to commissioning and performing works by living composers. Their concert tours have included performances across the United States, Norway, Greece, and Cyprus. NMPD’s first CD, transhuman, was released in 2017 by the Blue Griffin label.


March 13, 2020:  Dr. Brenda Wristen
University Music Student Health States and Behaviors
University music students may be especially at risk for occupational injury. Understanding student health states and behaviors can help educators promote good habits during a time when these students are still in a formative stage, helping to prevent injuries during the intensive years of university study and laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy music-making.

Dr. Brenda Wristen is Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy in the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her primary research interests are the occupational health of musicians, particularly health behaviors of university student musicians, and the biomechanics of piano technique including the special needs of small-handed pianists. Dr. Wristen is co-author of the ground-breaking book Adaptive Strategies for Small-Handed Pianists, published by Oxford University Press. Other research projects have included studies of adult recreational pianists and a collaborative ergonomic study of the 7/8 size ergonomically-scaled piano keyboard, which was awarded “Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science” recognition by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the American Institute of Physics. She has presented her research at numerous meetings of international, national, state, and local associations and has published in American Music Teacher, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, Music Education Research, Clavier, Keyboard Companion, and Piano Pedagogy Forum.  In addition to her teaching and research activities, Dr. Wristen is an active piano clinician, adjudicator, and performer.