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The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance.

The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance, by Lesley Sisterhen McAllister. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2013.; 366 pp., $45.00.


Henri Matisse once confessed, "What I dream of is an art of balance." Performing artists also seek a healthy balance in both their personal and professional lives. With its multifaceted and holistic approach, McAllister's book is a welcome contribution to the field of music performance and pedagogy. Informative, practical and comprehensive in her approach, the author successfully weaves together the relationship between mind and body in practice and performance.

Every chapter explores different but interrelated topics such as cognitive strategies, sport psychology, performance anxiety, mental rehearsal and stretching. The primary focus of the book is on mental training, imagery and other cognitive skills, although the most extensive chapter offers an excellent introduction to yoga practice for musicians. The end of each chapter features a summary of concluding points, list of important terms, names to know, suggested reading, questions for reflection, assignments, references, related topics and more. The lists of resources and reference materials are outstanding, although Freymuth's fine book on imagery is currently out of print.

Because of its organization and focus, this text is clearly intended for university music majors, although teachers will find it very helpful as well. In fact, the author occasionally presents a "Teaching Moment" aimed toward educators. This book would work well in courses on wellness, performance preparation or as a supplement to applied lessons. It would be most effective in a class or group setting, led by a knowledgeable instructor, with opportunities for discussion and feedback. Private music instructors will find abundant exercises and activities to explore with their students.

The final chapter serves to synthesize the content of the book, but also includes essential information on fitness, nutrition, sleep, practice strategies, goal setting, and injury prevention and treatment. This valuable content may be more beneficial for students to consider at the very outset, rather than at the end of the book. Suggestions about keeping a food journal, regulating sleep cycles and setting practice goals would be best considered early on, to allow students to assess their own progress for several weeks as they gradually assimilate the content of the book.

The many strengths of this substantial text include its broad scope, generous discussions of supporting research, student self-assessments and emphasis on practice techniques away from the instrument. Because of its leading-edge approach to the integration of body and mind, it will be a welcome addition to the library of any musician or teacher.--Reviewed by Vanessa Cornett-Murtada, NCTM, University of St. Thomas

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Author:Cornett-Murtada, Vanessa
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2013
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