Calibrating the Musical Body: Fitness, Wellness and the Physical Imperatives of Musicianship



Some musical traditions have long-standing historical, cultural and/or religious associations with physical conditioning as an integral part of artistic discipline. Training in Taiko drumming (ancient Japanese temple music), for example, requires specific exercise protocols as the nexus of the spiritual and intellectual components of the music. Yoga, likewise, is essential to some courses of training in the classical music of India. In the West, marching band is the only musical discipline that by definition regards athleticism as inextricably bound to its identity. Certain American music cultures (e.g. rock and roll, jazz, blues) take perspectives on physical musicianship that range from indifference to avoidance to disdain. As the body of evidence continues to grow, however, on both the long- and short-term benefits of a fitness-oriented lifestyle, it stands to reason that musicians (and musicianship) can benefit at least as much as any other cohort, if not more.


Most of the attention that is currently being paid to musicians’ fitness and wellness issues is concentrated on therapies and correctives for problems that musicians exhibit in abundance. Performing arts medicine is now a bona fide multidisciplinary medical specialty, and joins massage therapy, yoga, Pilates and Alexander Technique as means of addressing orthopaedic, neuro-muscular, musculo-skeletal and other health matters that trouble musicians and other performing artists.


This three-part workshop addresses musicians’ fitness from the preventive -- rather than the corrective or therapeutic – perspective; and in so doing argues that certain kinds of training (principally, core, strength and flexibility) typical to athletes are invaluable assets to a life of musicianship, especially for professionals who spend long hours on the road or in the practice studio.

PART ONE extrapolates from the current body of knowledge about the benefits of a good fitness program for anyone, to the reasons that a fitness program is especially beneficial to musicians.

PART TWO gives advice on how to decide what sort of program to follow, (gym memberships; choosing a personal trainer; buying home fitness equipment; and how it is possible to maintain a regimen during busy periods, especially when touring.

PART THREE includes a survey of instrument-specific fitness concerns (e.g., neck, shoulder and back annoyances common to string players, pianists and guitarists) and some strategies for addressing them.

Upcoming: a day-long retreat combining Calibrating the Musical Body with Summon Your Muse!, a performance wellness workshop offered by friend, colleague and fellow musician Iva Veazey. October 12, 2013 at Sfeer Studio in Chapel Hill, NC.