Injury Prevention Tips for Musicians
Are you experiencing physical discomfort or pain while practicing?
It is important to STOP practicing if you have any of these feelings:
- Sharp pains
- Loss or change of motor control
Any of the above symptoms indicate an injury is already present.
Musician injury is extremely common. The best way to deal with it is to avoid serious injury in the first place. Heed any danger signs (above); and get help from a professional specifically experienced with helping musicians.
What to do?
- STOP PRACTICING! Practicing in pain can create serious injury from which it can take a long time to recover. Wait to practice until you are no longer in discomfort or pain.
- Discuss any discomfort or pain you are having with your teacher. Together, try to identify the cause, possibly in your technique. Ask them if they can recommend an expert who is good at helping musicians with injury.
- Try a new approach. Many musicians find great help from taking Alexander Technique lessons, Feldenkrais, Body Mapping, and other approaches. Some of these are available here at school.
- Look into massage and physical therapy Massage and physical therapy with professionals experienced at helping musicians can be very beneficial.
- Wear earplugs. This is especially important whenever practicing or rehearsing when the decibel level is high. Special earplugs for musicians are available at the McGill Bookstore.
- Ask your helene.boucher [at] mcgill.ca (Wellness Coordinator) for help. The Schulich School of Music's Wellness Coordinator has a list of resources that can help you, from new approaches to finding a massage therapist.
Your BODY is your primary instrument. Please take very good care of it.
Mental Health Tips for Musicians
Are you feeling stress, anxiety, low mood or other bad feelings more than usual?
We all have mental health and need to take time to care for ourselves. The Schulich School of Music provides many resources to help you cope and feel better.
What can you do to support your mental health?
- Get your heart pumping. Moderate to vigorous exercise releases brain chemicals that greatly improve mood and sense of well-being. Try exercising 150 minutes a week, and reap the benefits of an improved mood.
- Eat well. Be mindful of what you eat and how it impacts your energy level and mental state. A dietitian is available at the Student Health Service for more information.
- Be aware of the effects of alcohol and drug use. Some substances can contribute to low mood and irritability amongst other impacts on your well-being. If you need help with substance misuse, refer to the Counselling Service.
- Talk to a peer. Check out the peer support offerings at McGill, like the Peer Support Network - a free, confidential, drop-in space offering a listening ear from a fellow McGill student who has been trained to listen. Some are offered in the School of Music.
- Talk to a mental health professional. Both Counselling Service and Mental Health Service are available to help you.
- Make a plan. McGill's Music Career Planning Services (CaPS) offers excellent workshops. Many of these can help you alleviate stress and anxiety by helping you organize and plan your studies and future career. Appointments are also available with CaPS’ Arts and Music Career Advisor.
- Speak with your Wellness Coordinator. helene.boucher [at] mcgill.ca ((Make an appointment)). The Coordinator has many resources you can use to improve how you feel.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention
Consent McGill has developed a new Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention website. The site is a non-directional resource for anyone who requires it, including people affected by sexual assault and their allies. Information on the site includes how to support someone affected, how to report an incident, assistance in navigating McGill’s policies, and a list of support services offered at McGill and in Montreal.
Well-Being Resources around McGill and Montreal
Below you'll find some examples of well-being (physical and mental) services/professionals around McGill and Montreal. It is not a comprehensive listing, and McGill University is not affiliated with the off-campus services listed below. Contact Prof. helene.boucher [at] mcgill.ca (Hélène Boucher) (Wellness Program Coordinator) if you know of other well-being resources that would be useful for musicians.
The following physical therapists are experienced at working with musicians:
- Pauline Beaud (pauliejbeaud [at] gmail.com (email)), tel: 514-991-0543 (she works a few blocks away from the School of Music)
- Louise Campbell (mlouisecampbell [at] gmail.com (email)) (Professional clarinetist and consultant for injury recovery)
- Isabelle Duchesne (isabelle.duchesne [at] kinatex.com (email)), tel: 514-727-1176
- Martine Gagné (martgagne [at] gmail.com (email)) (Professional Violist and licensed physical therapist specializing in therapy for musicians)
- The McGill Counseling Service is located on the 4th floor of the Brown Building.
- Argyle Institute, located at 4150 Saint Catherine St. West (walking distance from school). (In many cases, you can access counseling here more quickly than at the McGill Counseling Service. The fees are on a sliding scale and designed to be affordable).
- Westmount Psychological Services at 4060 rue Saint Catherine West (walking distance from school). (In many cases, you can access counseling here more quickly than at the McGill Counseling Service. The fees are on a sliding scale and designed to be affordable).
- Ami-Québec provides free counseling for caregivers and a list of links to counseling for individuals (including art therapy, etc.).
- Confidential Talk Therapy Peer Support Centre drop-in listening service sees people confidentially. They are located in SSMU Building, Room 411.
Available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in room E-209 by our two instructors: Lawrence Smith and Simon G. Beaudry.
To reserve a lesson time:
- Tuesday or Thursday: contact Lawrence Smith at: 514 495-3513 or alexandertech [at] videotron.ca
- Friday : contact Simon G. Beaudry at: 514-995-5092 or simonghiberti [at] videotron.ca
The Schulich School of Music subsidises the lessons. Students are permitted four lessons per term for $10.00 per lesson. Application forms are available at the Reception Desk on the 7th floor.
To learn more about Alexander Technique and Lawrence Smith in particular: http://www.alexandertechnique-montreal.com/
- Simon Ghiberti (simonghiberti [at] videotron.ca (email)), website: www.canstat.ca, phone number: 514-995-5092. Teaching location: Queen Mary Health Center at 2100 Marlowe St (right by the Vendome Metro stop)
- Lawrence Smith (alexandertech [at] videotron.ca (email)): alexandertech [at] videotron.ca
- John Austin (website)
Musicians need training in awareness of their own movement and posture, the same way they need ear training. Feldenkrais lessons help reduce tension and effort, overcome and prevent performance-related injuries, and bring relief from aches and pains. They also provide enhanced coordination and increased quality of movement and attention. Musicians can greatly benefit from learning to use their body with precision, ease and efficiency. And if you are working at your dissertation or trying to find inspiration for your next composition, releasing tensions in your body might allow for better cognitive skills. Each lesson can address a different function (sitting, standing, use of the arms, breathing, etc), so it is good to have a series of classes. And students say regularity helps the learning process, so coming once a week is recommended. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a vest.
Mireille has a Facebook group that you can join: McGill Feldenkrais. No registration needed.
For more information about the benefits of Feldenkrais method for musicians:
- Mireille Painchaud (mireillepainchaud [at] gmail.com (email)), tel: 514-803-4702
What is Music Therapy?
“Music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals (MTA) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.” (Canadian Association of Music Therapists, 2017).
Why Music Therapy for Musicians?
There are special benefits of music therapy for musicians because we are working with the language that we have been trained in, perform in, and know intimately.This allows us to enter the world of music in a unique way, and to address music-related issues at the source.
Identifying the Need
Music students may struggle with:
- identity as a musician
- feelings of depression including low self-confidence and loss of enjoyment in performing and studying music (Wristen, 2013)
- performance anxiety (Biasutti & Concina, 2014)
- feelings of being disconnected with their creativity
- troubled relationship with their main instrument
- tensions within ensembles
- balancing academic (e.g. essays) and practice requirements
- lack of time and space to experience their own musical creativity
- understanding their own emotional relationship to music
- balancing demands of school with health and wellbeing (Panebianco-Warrens, Fletcher, & Kreutz, 2015)
- lower levels of social support and feelings of isolation (Schneider & Chesky, 2011)
Possible Outcomes of Music Therapy for Musicians
Music therapy experiences can uniquely support music students’ needs including:
- Reducing performance anxiety (Kim, 2008) and generalized anxiety (Gutiérrez & Camarena, 2015)
- Connecting with their creativity and experiencing greater joy in music making (Seabrook, 2018)
- Establishing and understanding their musical identities (Ahonen & Lee, 2011)
- Providing reparative experiences with their main instrument (Ahonen & Houde, 2009)
- Equipping them to attend classes regularly and do their academic best
- Performing at a higher caliber, with more connection to their work, and with more joy
How Might a Typical Session for Music Students Unfold?
- Musical Introduction
- Verbal Introduction
a. The music therapist welcomes the student(s) and shares the nature of music therapy
b. The students share what they might like to accomplish.
- Therapeutic music-making
a. The students engage in therapeutic music-making supported by the music therapist. Students might choose to play their main instrument, or one of a variety of percussion instruments available (e.g. tamboa, doumbek, marimba)
- Verbal Debrief
a. The students are invited to share their experiences during the improvisation.
- Therapeutic music making
a. The students engage in therapeutic music-making supported by the music therapist about the students’ presented issue(s).
- Verbal Debrief
a. The students and music therapist talk about what new insights emerged in the clinical improvisation regarding the issue they brought in.
- Musical Closure
Music Therapist: deborah.seabrook [at] mcgill.ca ( Deborah Seabrook )
Provided by the McGill Sports Medicine Clinic, on site at the Schulich School of Music, sports massages are available every Tuesday from 10am to 12pm.
• 30$ per 30 min massage, payable by debit or credit card only, directly to the therapist. Electronic receipts will be sent to the students.
For an appointment, please contact the Wellness Program Assistant – Ryan Esau ryan.esau [at] mcgill.ca
- McGill Sport Medicine Clinic, located on the 3rd floor of the stadium building, walk straight up the hill on Aylmer.
- Setsuko Massage (website).
- MUSA offers Yoga for Musicians with certified yoga instructors! All sessions will take place in Wirth Opera Studio. Wednesdays 9:15-10:30 with Allison Ulan and Thursdays 2:30-3:30 with Sara Casey. For more information, please contact MUSA VP Health and Athletics.
- There are many meditation events and services free and available on campus. Check out the Mindfulness website for details. Guided meditation audio is available for free online.
McGill Sport Medicine Clinic
Monday - Friday, 8:00am–8:00pm. To make an appointment with a physiotherapist, athletic therapist, or massage therapist please call (514) 398-7007, between 8:00am and 8:00pm. To make an appointment to see a physician, please call (514) 398-7007 between 8:00am and 3:00pm. Our physicians see patients with injuries directly related to sports or recreational activity. The clinic is closed on all statutory holidays.
McGill Library Health and Wellness Guides
- Additional links and resources are available through McGill Library's Musician Health and Wellness Guides
- Wei Zheng (website)
- If you can get out to Baie D'Urfee, Ann St-Amant is recommended (tel: 514-457-1966).
- Colleen Mason is a shiatsu and acupressure-certified acupuncturist located in Mile End (tel: 514-349-4942).
Groups and clubs
There are lots of opportunities at McGill to join student groups & clubs, depending on your interests. Here are the main undergraduate student organizations to which our music students belong:
- MUSA: All undergraduate music students are members of the Music Undergraduate Students' Association of McGill University.
- MEDUSA (B.Mus./B.Ed. students): The Music Education Undergraduate Students' Association provides services to strengthen the educational, cultural, environmental, political and social conditions of our membership, as well as to facilitate interaction between members and professionals in the field of Music Education.
- SSMU: All McGill undergraduate students belong to the Students' Society of McGill University.