Last week we discussed how to prevent injuries in an orchestral setting. This week we will be discussing how to prevent injuries with your students. Dr. Jo Nardolillo, an experienced educator and performer, is here to offer her expertise. To read Dr. Nardolillo’s bio, please visit her website.
Keeping Students Healthy
Question: How do you help promote healthy playing habits in your students?
Dr. Nardolillo: The most important thing I can teach them is how to be aware of unhealthy playing and guide them to resources of information. Every student faces different challenges, and ultimately the path to healthy playing will be a unique one they discover for themselves. My job is to set them on that journey.
Question: How do you address injuries in your students? What do you do when a student comes to you with pain from playing their instrument?
Dr. Nardolillo: Students need to know that they should take pain seriously and that while everyone is faced with playing-related pain at some point, it is never expected (or acceptable) to play through pain.
- The first step in helping a student with pain is to give that person the opportunity to thoroughly explain how they are feeling and demonstrate what they are doing when the pain arises. The very act of explaining the pain experience heightens your student’s awareness of the problem and is the starting point for finding the right solution.
- The second step is to assure your student that the pain issue can be solved (by the time pain is severe/chronic enough to mention in a lesson, the student is usually fairly distraught). Direct the student to resources that will help them solve their pain issues.
Question: Do you have any tips for your colleagues on how to address performance injuries in their students? Or how to prevent these injuries?
Dr. Nardolillo: (also see answer above) For injury prevention, teachers should be close observers of the playing habits of their students. Issues of tension and stressful posture should be addressed as a high priority, even if the student plays well through the tension and does not complain of pain. Learning repertoire should always take a back seat to working on gaining true facility on the instrument.
Question: What advice can you give other performers? How do you stay healthy and injury-free as a musician?
Dr. Nardolillo: The best way to stay healthy is to be actively aware of your playing habits, and of your lifestyle in general. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, be sure to take time to do the things that make you happy. Play in front of a mirror as often as possible, watching for signs of tension and strain. Invest in Alexander classes, yoga classes, and books about playing healthy LONG before you encounter any pain issues.
And most of all, cultivate and revel in the joy of playing.