Campus wide, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Music

Week-long seminar a resource to all musicians

By Jenna Johnson | February 5, 2020

The Horton School of Music at Charleston Southern along with the Charleston Jazz Academy hosted an eight-day seminar on musician’s health and safety that concluded on Tuesday, February 4. The free annual event focused on issues facing musicians of all levels with regard to physical, mental, and emotional health and safety demands. Attendees spanned the musical field: professional and avocational performers, music teachers and students, music therapists, worship leaders, church musicians and students.

“Musicians are reliant on their bodies and minds to function at the highest levels and in peak condition,” founder and chair of the event committee, Dr. Jill Terhaar Lewis, said.

musician's health & safety seminar at Charleston Southern University
Attendees participate in an exercise in a Musician’s Health & Safety Seminar workshop in January 2020. Photo by Andrew Boyles

A professor of music within CSU’s Horton School of Music, Lewis is dedicated to arming students with the tools necessary to sustain long careers in music. “Good habits and resources learned now help us all to be informed and prepared should problems arise.”

Workshops covered topics on the physical and mental well-being of a musician. In Dr. Lucinda Halstead’s presentation on the biometrics of singing, attendees learned about laryngeal and wind instruments dystonia as well as hearing loss. 

She addressed the training of the voice, explaining that most professional musicians apply sports medicine training and performance knowledge to their careers. Just like athletes, nutrition and aerobics are important.

“Your body is your instrument,” she said. “Your brain and emotions drive that violin.”

Her presentation continued to speak to the biomechanics of the voice: larynx functions, various muscles surrounding the vocal chords, resting the voice, and even the dangers of smoking. Halstead also stressed the use of protective earwear when possible, such as 20db silicone earplugs, while singing.

Erin McCance, CSU Counseling Services intern, talks about mental health for musicians
Erin McCance, CSU Counseling Services intern, talks about mental health for musicians. Photo by Caleb Summers

“Being a professional singer is a life choice,” she said in closing. “So break a leg!”

Erin McCance, intern with CSU’s Counseling Services, took a different approach: the mental health of a musician. She primarily focused on music performance anxiety and self-compassion, noting the reasons for anxiety and stress as well as how to self-treat and when to seek help. The strongest cause of music performance anxiety? Depression, according to McCance. She noted that escape from anxiety and stress caused by the standard of perfection can be found in practicing mindfulness.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” McCance said. “Change the words from ‘how can I fail’ to ‘how can I be successful?’”

Workshops were held on campus as well as the Charleston Jazz Academy’s location in North Charleston. 

This year’s presenters included: 

  • Dr. John Chong, Musicians’ Clinics of Canada
  • Dr. Lucinda Halstead, MUSC Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing
  • Krysten Sears, MUSC Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing
  • Dr. Jerry Renato, chiropractor
  • Dr. Ann G. Rhodes, Poise and Performance studio
  • Dr. Katherine Smith, CSU assistant professor of kinesiology
  • Scott Wade PA-C, CSU director of didactic education physician assistant program
  • Erin McCance, CSU Counseling Services intern
  • Ed Meyer, retired health insurance executive
  • Deanna McBroom, MUSC Evelyn Trammel Institute for Voice and Swallowing and Professor Emerita of Voice-The College of Charleston

Andrew Boyles and Caleb Summers contributed to this article and are both senior communication studies majors at Charleston Southern.

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