I recently returned from a trip to Taiwan to visit my lovely 90 year old grandmother. While the trip, itself, was full of adventures and exploration, I was also there on another mission: to help promote musician wellness and injury prevention. Having been a former piano teacher herself, my grandmother introduced me to the Chinese Culture University, where one of her former students is now a professor within the music department. I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the afternoon sharing my experiences and educating the future musicians of Taiwan on my passion in Performing Arts Medicine. What was even more exciting, was their openness and curiosity to learn more about their bodies, how to play more effortlessly.
I was so grateful for the opportunity to be able to travel halfway around the world and to see first hand, once again, that the love of music transcends all cultures, languages and centuries. This is why it's so important to protect the art and the people who interpret it and keep everyone happy and healthy.
It's been a long time coming. After years of prodding and harassing from my friends, family and colleagues.... I mean - gentle encouragement... I've finally decided to embark on this journey of blogdom.
So, in honor of new beginnings and building things from the ground up, I present to you: My mini piano.
It certainly has been a long road to get to this point. From a clumsy 4 year-old finding her way around a piano, to being chosen to receive college scholarships for 2 instruments; one shoulder surgery, 5 months of lost playing-time, 6 years of undergraduate coursework and 3 years of graduate school later, I set forth on my mission to help the injured musicians on the world.
I want to be THAT person.
What I have learned through the years as I transitioned from a music student --> performer --> teacher --> physical therapist, is that the human body is truly amazing. It has the capability to do incredible things things, such as leap off tall buildings, lift burning cars off of trapped people.
It can also do this:
The human body is also amazing, in a sense that it can withstand hours of repetitive motions and activities. It does not discriminate whether you sit at a desk all day on the computer, or if you are a professional athlete practicing and training for hours/day. If you do not respect your body and listen to what it's trying to tell you, it may eventually break down.
I commonly work with patients who are elite or professional musicians. The thing that always surprises me is how much they DON'T know about their bodies. As musicians, we are always less concerned about WHAT we are doing than HOW it comes across to our audience. But here's something else for you to think about:
When I was in college, this is what a typical week as a piano performance major consisted of
That comes to about 42 hours of actual instrumental playing time.
What about the time spent sitting in class or typing on the computer doing homework and chatting with my friends?
42 + 20 hours on the computer + 25 hours in class = 89 hours of sitting in the SAME position.
IN. A. WEEK.
No wonder I was in pain. I hurt just thinking about it.
And it is this point that I emphasize to the musicians who come in to see me at my clinic, and I want to emphasize this to you (whoever you are), now.
TAKE A BREAK!!
As a general rule of thumb, if you are a performing musician who spends many hours in a week playing, you should allocate AT LEAST 5 minutes of non-playing time for every 25 minutes of playing time. During the 5 minutes, take time and move OUT of your playing position. Stand up, move around, stretch. Do yourself a favor and go find something else to do other than play or stare at your computer screen.
Trust me. Your body will thank you, and your audience will too.