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Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians.

Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians by Janet Horvath. ISBN 978-1-4234-8846-0. Hal Leonard, 7777 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee WI 53213; halleonard. com. HL00332931, 2000/2002/2004/2010, $29.99 (paperback).

According to her biography, Janet Horvath, associate principal cello of the Minnesota Orchestra for three decades, is also a soloist, writer, and award-winning advocate for injury prevention. She received the 2001 Performing Arts Medical Association's Richard Lederman Award at the nineteenth Annual Symposium on Medical Problems of Musicians and Directors...." Her commitment to musician well-being comes from several difficult personal experiences, and Playing (Less) Hurt is a compilation of knowledge gained through these experiences and significant additional research into musician injuries, their causes, treatment, and prevention. The book is structured in three larger sections: "Overview of How Injuries Arise," "Explanations of Various Injuries," and "Preventive and Restorative Approaches," with a fourth, smaller, "Resource" section. The material is directed at professional and amateur musicians, students and teachers, doctors and therapists, with a goal to provide information that encourages preventive approaches and self-analysis; medical diagnosis and treatment of injuries should be left to medical professionals, but being able to "speak the language" can only help in communicating the necessary information.

Injuries are recognized through physical pain, and most individuals who have experienced an injury know that there are many forces at work once the pain appears. Teachers, both directly and indirectly, often encourage students to play through the pain. Music can be a competitive business, so individuals, especially younger players, can push themselves into overusing of muscles, joints, etc. Doctors who do not fully understand the physical activities of music-making can be dismissive in their attitude and advice to musicians. Conductor attitudes can be similarly problematic. In addition, the way that orchestral/ performing life has changed over the past fifty years, including changes in rehearsal/performance schedules, expansion of repertoire, higher performance standards, expectations in preparation, different playing conditions, aspects of resulting performance anxiety, physical vulnerability, and outside stresses, has had a profound effect on physical well-being. These factors, among others, can lead to serious injuries that put careers at risk, even before they have begun.

As a result, Horvath's primary focus throughout the book is on potential and actual injuries resulting from overuse, especially in cases of repetitive use of various body parts. The explanations of various injuries are divided into Static Loading, Back, and Disc Problems; Muscle and Tendon Disorders of the Arms and Shoulders; Nerve Entrapments and Hand and Forearm Pain; and a collection of miscellaneous Other Conditions (e.g., Raynaud's Disease, Beta Blockers and Performance Anxiety, Focal Dystonia, TMJ, and a few others). The final section on preventive and restorative approaches then takes these injuries and shows how to avoid them as well as how to recover if they do occur.

Because Horvath is a string player, it is not surprising that the majority of the details are string oriented, but the book includes plenty of descriptions for keyboardists and wind players, even bagpipers. Of particular interest to brass players are thoughts on lip/embouchure issues (with several references to Lucinda Lewis's work), warm-ups, stretching and strengthening strategies, chair problems, hearing issues, and what to do after an injury has occurred. I am especially impressed by the range of sources cited--lots of International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) statistics backed by a various medical and musical resources that lend depth and credibility to the descriptions and suggestions. The Resource list in the final section is fairly comprehensive (only a few disappointments, like not including the IHS as a resource comparable to ITG and ITA), and should provide a place to go for almost any concern. I also really like the variety of summaries, checklists, and informal surveys sprinkled throughout the book to give readers the opportunity to assess their own situations.

Learning to make music pain-free adds to every aspect of a performance, and using this book as a means of increasing awareness and finding paths to prevention or cure will certainly make performing more enjoyable. I recommend that this outstanding book be read all the way through first before trying to use it as a desk reference for individual issues because of the larger context of reasons and prevention of injuries that is established. Once the big picture is clear, the recommendations for more specific circumstances will be better understood. JS
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Author:Snedeker, Jeffrey
Publication:The Horn Call
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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