You don’t often think of musicians being at risk for career-ending injuries.
While musicians don’t typically have to worry about reckless tackles and torn ligaments, repetitive motions and improper technique can take their own toll.
That’s why CU Boulder’s College of Music is leading the charge to treat and—more importantly—to prevent injuries to musicians.
James Brody, an associate professor of oboe, founded the Musicians’ Wellness Program in 2003 to help students avoid or recover from injuries of repetition. CU Boulder was among the first universities to offer a music wellness program, according to Brody.
He sees more than 100 CU Boulder students annually. Those with injuries, such as tendonitis or vocal cord dysfunction, can meet with him for individual consultations. Others are introduced to the program through academic credit courses.
“When [injury] occurs, often the musician will try harder instead of observing habitual behavior and altering maladaptive patterns,” said Brody.
To combat this tendency, the Musicians’ Wellness Program leans heavily on the Alexander Technique—a method of releasing tension through adjustments to posture and movement based on body awareness.
Brody is a believer. He adopted the technique himself while recovering from a car accident in his early 20s.
For a music professor, Brody’s office is littered with some unconventional instruments: yoga balls, mats, mirrors and one life-size model human skeleton. These are his tools for teaching students to be intentional in their movements and aware of the long-term costs of poor form.
Brody also refers his students to a network of on-campus physicians, physical therapists and counselors.
Unaddressed injuries can hamper performance and even end careers. They can also compromise a musician’s sense of identity.
“Music students lead complicated lives,” said Brody. “What they do is tied very closely with their vision of themselves.”
Brody hopes his program’s holistic approach to wellness can help his students look forward to long, and healthy, careers.