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$9,025.00

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Helping improve musicians’ health


We at the University of Ottawa Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory are promoting scientific research on musicians’ health and injury prevention. Since the Lab’s beginnings in 2005,musicians’ health has become one of our core missions.

 

We recognize the severity of playing-related injuries and other health-related issues for musicians.

o    61% of classically trained professional musicians and 45% of music students are affected.1

o    91% piano teachers have experienced playing-related pain.2

o    Music performance anxiety affects 1 out of 4 professional musicians.3

o    They can have a devastating impact on careers.

o    There has been little scientific research in this field. 

 


Building a sensory awareness inclusive of the whole arm is a major concept in the somatic method, body mapping. Somatic methods like body mapping may help musicians prevent and recover from playing-related pain, but there has so far been very little scientific research done.

 

We're on a mission

With such a high rate of pain and injury among musicians, and so little research, something must be done to help musicians prevent and rehabilitate from playing-related pain. ThePiano Pedagogy Research Laboratory is seeking $7,000 to continue researching the effect of somatic (body awareness) training on postural patterns and muscular tension in musicians, thereby transforming teaching methods and enabling more people to enjoy their music-making without playing-related pain and injuries.

 



Recent graduate Meganne Woronchak participates in a study on the effects of somatic methods—the Alexander technique, body mapping and Feldenkrais—conducted by PhD student Grace Wong.


Some of our current investigations

o   3D visualisation and motion capture to help students achieve healthy posture and alignment

o   Infrared cameras to detect early signs of musculoskeletal disorders

o   Somatic training (training of the body with awareness) for injury prevention and rehabilitation

o   Factors contributing to performance anxiety

  

Reflective or coloured markers are used for a motion capture system that allows analysis of movement.


Our budget breakdown

Our fundraising goal will contribute to a trio of research expenses.


This collaborative research project involves researchers and students at the Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory and research partners from the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Health Sciences.



Left: thermal imaging is a tool that may allow us to detect early signs of musculoskeletal disorders.Right: EMG sensors detect activation of forearm muscles in a participant performing a triad exercise.


“The Piano PedagogyResearch Laboratory is the only lab in the world devoted to studying piano instructions, with a core focus on health. The lab has teamed up with other departments at the university to use video imaging to obtain accurate pictures of the biomechanics of playing. It’s tragic that people stop playing because of an injury caused by the very thing they love to do. The Piano Lab, at least, is orchestrating a solution.”

 

                                                                            -Chris Daniels, Time Magazine 

 

Musicians will benefit from your contribution

Our research:

o   Will objectively determine the effectiveness of somatic approaches for musicians.

o   Will identify specific somatic approaches that improve postural patterns, enhance playing technique and prevent pain and injury.

o   Has the potential to change how we teach musicians to play.

Left: Teri and Alexandre discuss the spine health and freedom at the hip joint for guitar players who use footstools. Right: Knowing that TMJ issues are common for wind players, Jeremy explores ease of movement at the jaw joint.


This will enable more people to enjoy the rewarding activity of playing without the discomfort of playing-related pain and injuries. 

 

We appreciate your contribution to improving musicians’ health!

 

1. Zaza, C. (1995).“Musicians’ playing-related musculoskeletal disorders: An examination of physical, psychological, and behavioural factors.” Doctoral dissertation,University of Waterloo.


2. Yoshimura, E.,Fjellman-Wiklund, A., Paul, P. M., Aerts, C., & Chesky, K. (2008). “Risk factors for playing-related pain among piano teachers.” Medical Problems ofPerforming Artists 23(3), 107–13.


3. Fishbein, M.,Middlestadt, S. E., Ottati, V., Strauss, S., & Ellis, A. (1988). “Medical problems among ICSOM musicians: Overview of a national survey.” MedicalProblems of Performing Artists 3(1), 1–8.

 

Stories from the Piano Lab - Nisreen 

  Published on Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2016 at 05:16 PM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:

Nisreen:

"Looking back at my piano education as a young student, all I knew was the importance of extensive piano technique studies and practical exams.  When I joined the piano pedagogy research laboratory later on, I was blown away with all the research and new techniques used to study the complex nature of piano pedagogy. I was lucky enough to attend workshops and lectures that promote musicians’ health and wellness.  I learned about the importance of warming up, how to play without tension, paying attention to posture and good technique, etc. iI is a research field that needs to be explored and publicized.  When I was doing my masters in music, I was sad to see some students in music performance not being able to perform often due to pain or injuries because of practice habits or tension. This made me think of how prevention of injuries is so crucial and must be emphasized at the very beginning of every piano pedagogy curriculum.  I’m thrilled to be part of a team that supports such an important project and I hope this will be a start of many more to come."



Stories from the Piano Lab - Gabrielle 

  Published on Friday, Jul. 22, 2016 at 03:11 PM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:

Gabrielle:

“I think of my grandmother. I actually started teaching her when I was younger, and she really wanted to play piano better but that’s what stopped her. She was in pain. She had too much pain, and she definitely wanted to continue playing, but it was the worst thing. As soon as she started playing, it would be painful. I was really proud of her for starting so late in her life and she was really happy with that too… For me, I don’t think I’ve ever been injured. I mean, I would play until my arms couldn’t move anymore, but I don’t think I’ve ever been injured, really.”


Stories from the Piano Lab - Mélina 

  Published on Thursday, Jul. 14, 2016 at 05:53 PM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:


Mélina:

“I know that many musicians suffer from pain, and it’s related to repetitive movement from practicing their instrument in inefficient ways. In many instances, we have not-acquired knowledge about our bodies and how to use it in an effective manner. Do we need more research in this venue? Absolutely. We need more specialists who understand the body, like Body Mapping specialists, for example. We also need teachers to be aware of how the body is used to produce sound on our instruments and consequently be given the opportunities to receive training in this discipline. This will ensure better quality musicianship for our students.



“I’ve experienced Eutonie and Feldenkrais. I experienced an awareness of how my body was producing sound and how my body carried and transferred its weight. It helped immensely with lower back pain and tensions in my shoulders, especially during a time where I was practicing more intensely. I want to be able to assist my students in finding their own body awareness and understand the biomechanics of their bodies as children, teenagers and young adults”


Stories from the Piano Lab - Mikael 

  Published on Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2016 at 07:31 PM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:


Mikael:

“When I first started working here [at the piano lab], I was surprised by the number of students that I encountered who had some sort of story of being injured for some period of time of varying severity. Their stories always seemed to include having to take some time off - completely off of practicing or have to take it easy in their practicing, in terms of how much they practice per day, which of course is extremely detrimental to their paths. So, I realized at that point what a big issue it is and what an important area of study it is.

 

“One of the many things I love about the lab is the fact that it’s pedagogy focused. The research we do has a good potential of having a strong impact on students to help them continue in their music endeavours and potentially attract more people to music. From a personal point of view, it’s been one of the most enriching aspects of my life - the gift of music. I’ve seen it as a universal language; such a positive art form that for me is the epitome of human creation. For its beauty to be shared with as many people as possible and to be a part of their lives is for me a huge positive impact of the work we do at the lab.”


Stories from the Piano Lab - Lu 

  Published on Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2016 at 02:48 AM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:

Lu:

“When I was a kid, learning piano in China, I think most piano teachers were educated from Russian Old School style. When I was an undergrad student, many teachers had been sent to Russia to learn. My teacher often said I had very tight wrist and that I needed to relax, relax, relax, but no one told me how. I think it’s really tricky, especially when I was a kid, and I was shy, so I didn’t ask how. So they just said for me to relax and we would make a motion like this. You know, I can imitate motions and look like I’m a bird or whatever, but when I go to the piano, I didn’t know how to relax my wrist.

 

“You can see some methods books, at the beginning they like to teach the student to have curled fingers [like holding a ball]. It’s funny, when I was an undergrad student, and I took a video of myself, I saw my hand wasn’t curled like this at all. They were like this [very slight curve in the fingers] and I felt comfortable in my playing but I thought, “I didn’t do the good shape. This is the good shape. This is the bad shape. Why is my hand doing the bad shape?” But when I came here, I did research and read more articles, and I learned that actually, I was right when I was an undergrad student. I had been doing the relaxed way.

You know, it’s not just for piano students. I think for every single person, we really need to put time into this issue.” 


Stories from the Piano Lab - Alex 

  Published on Monday, Jul. 4, 2016 at 05:06 PM (EDT)

We asked some people to tell us what impact musicians’ health concerns has had in their life. This is what they told us:

Alexandre:

“Coming from a pop guitar background, if I think of my first 3 teachers, technique was not even on the table. I was able to produce and that was awesome. Everything was coming along well, and then getting into the classical world, I just expected bigger challenges.

“You’re in music school and you see someone with a brace one day and you think, ‘oh that’s part of it’ and I thought, ‘I’m now at a point where I’m working hard so it makes sense that my arms hurt.’

“In the months following my first year master’s recital I was in pain while playing, and after maybe three minutes it became unbearable. And it stayed throughout my everyday life, so when I was cooking, or anything of the sort, there was always that pressure and it feeds back into stress. ‘Is this going to get better?’ ’Is my career over?’ So I had to take a step back.

“It was really disconcerting. Everyone who knows [me] knows it’s all I would do. I study guitar, and teach guitar, and I play guitar for fun when I have spare time, so it was really hard to take a step back. But if I would have cultivated a balance from day one, I can see how that would have changed how things went.


 

“In other pedagogical fields, we’re a lot more open to scientific study. Teachers are always going to professional development (PD) days, and new teachers are monitored by another teacher in the back of the room. In music, a lot of private teachers aren’t necessarily up to date on the research that’s being done, if they are qualified at all.

“We’re in a society that puts importance on science, and music research and pedagogy should not stay behind. Music teachers should be motivated to realize that some people have dedicated their lives to find out better ways to use our body, memory, motivation, etc. and that it’s therefore our duty to stay alert and stay fresh and trust those who are dedicating as much of their passion and time in laboratories and on the field as we do in teaching. It’s our duty because they’re the ones who are really looking for solutions to give to the teachers. I think, as teachers, we should be working with researchers to always be stepping up our game."


Day 1 

  Published on Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2016 at 12:57 AM (EDT)

Today is the first day of our Piano Pedagogy Research campaign! Our team leaders met to celebrate the beginning of this campaign and we're very excited to make a difference for the health of musicians.

During our campaign, we will be sharing stories of some of the people in our lab. We asked them how they have been impacted by musicians' health concerns and their stories are all so unique! Stay tuned for those stories, as well as exciting updates throughout our journey towards improving the future of musicians' health.

-The Piano Lab


Please contact Yixiao.Chen@uottawa.ca to add you to supporters list.

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