Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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"You Cannot Perform Music Without Taking Care of Your Body": A Qualitative Study on Musicians' Representation of Body and Health

Veronika Schoeb, Amélie Zosso
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 27 Number 3: Page 129 (September 2012)

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Abstract: To identify professional musicians' representation of health and illness and to identify its perceived impact on musical performance. METHODS: A total of 11 professional musicians participated in this phenomenological study. Five of the musicians were healthy, and the others suffered debilitating physical health problems caused by playing their instruments. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcribed verbatim and analysed. Thematic analysis, including a six-step coding process, was performed (ATLAS-ti 6). RESULTS: Three major themes emerged from the data: music as art, the health of musicians, and learning through experience. The first theme, music as art, was discussed by both groups; they talked about such things as passion, joy, sense of identity, sensitivity, and a musician's hard life. Discussions of the second theme, the health of musicians, revealed a complex link between health and performance, including the dramatic impact of potential or actual health problems on musical careers. Not surprisingly, musicians with health problems were more concerned with dysfunctional body parts (mostly the hand), whereas healthy musicians focused on maintaining the health of the entire person. The third theme, learning through experience, focused on the dynamic nature of health and included the life-long learning approach, not only in terms of using the body in musical performance but also in daily life. CONCLUSIONS: The centre of a musician's life is making music in which the body plays an important part. Participants in this study evidenced a complex link between health and musical performance, and maintaining health was perceived by these musicians as a dynamic balance. Our results suggest that learning through experience might help musicians adapt to changes related to their bodies.

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