Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Is Playing in the Pit Really the Pits?: Pain, Strength, Music Performance Anxiety, and Workplace Satisfaction in Professional Musicians in Stage, Pit, and Combined Stage/Pit Orchestras

Dianna T. Kenny, Tim Driscoll Dianna T. Kenny, Tim Driscoll, Bronwen J. Ackermann
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 31 Number 1: Page 1 (March 2016)

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Abstract: INTRODUCTION: Typically, Australian orchestral musicians perform on stage, in an orchestra pit, or in a combination of both workplaces. This study explored a range of physical and mental health indicators in musicians who played in these different orchestra types to ascertain whether orchestra environment was a risk factor affecting musician wellbeing. METHODS: Participants comprised 380 full-time orchestral musicians from the eight major state orchestras in Australia comprised of two dedicated pit orchestras, three stage-only symphonic orchestras, and three mixed stage/pit orchestras. Participants completed a physical assessment and a range of self-report measures assessing performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMD), physical characteristics including strength and perceived exertion, and psychological health, including music performance anxiety (MPA), workplace satisfaction, and bullying. RESULTS: Physical characteristics and performance-related musculoskeletal profiles were similar for most factors on the detailed survey completed by orchestra members. The exceptions were that pit musicians demonstrated greater shoulder and elbow strength, while mixed-workload orchestra musicians had greater flexibility Significantly more exertion was reported by pit musicians when rehearsing and performing. Stage/pit musicians reported less physical exertion when performing in the pit compared with performing on stage. Severity of MPA was significantly greater in pit musicians than mixed orchestra musicians. Pit musicians also reported more frequent bullying and lower job satisfaction compared with stage musicians. DISCUSSION: There were few differences in the objective physical measures between musicians in the different orchestra types. However, pit musicians appear more psychologically vulnerable and less satisfied with their work than musicians from the other two orchestra types. The physical and psychological characteristics of musicians who perform in different orchestra types have not been adequately theorized or studied. We offer some preliminary thoughts that may account for the observed differences.

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