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Thursday, May 10, 2001

"Wellness Performance Program Offered at SSU"

SALISBURY, MD---Q: As a professional musician, I practice or perform eight hours a day. My body is beginning to feel the strain in several places, especially my hand and elbow. What should I do to avoid permanent damage to my body and career? 
A: Consider talking to Dr. Linda Cockey and Pat Lamboni, co- instructors of a unique undergraduate course, "Wellness in Performance," at Salisbury State University. They designed this interdisciplinary class, perhaps the only one of its kind in the nation, for music and physical education students. 


Cockey, a pianist, sought the expertise of Lamboni, head athletic trainer at the University, when she had developed tennis elbow. The cause was found to be over practice of certain physically stressful hand positions. Her technique was correct, but the over repetition had put too much stress on the hand, moving through the wrist to the affected elbow. 

Usually, however, repetition of poor practice habits is the culprit in back, neck, hand, arm, vocal cord and other kinds of strains. After teaching the basics of human anatomy, these instructors help students evaluate their practice habits, using video tapes to analyze environment, anatomical alignment, breathing and movement techniques.
Some problem sources are simple to identify but can have a critical impact on performance. For example, one student who had cramping in her fingers learned that her flute was too large for her small hands. Flutes are now available in different sizes or with key extensions to address this problem. 

Proper nutrition, exercise and sleep habits are also tracked, since fatigue and poor physical condition prevent optimum performance. Drink water, they say, to increase blood flow, not sodas with caffeine, which increase the heart rate adversely. "Performance is a product of practice," reminds Lamboni, and anything that affects the mind and body affects performance. 

For that reason, they study everything from bad habits to bad thinking. The third "coach" on the team is a psychologist, Dr. Robert McBrien, who addresses relaxation and breathing techniques, as well as emotional health. Cockey asserts that "if you have a physical problem, you have an emotional problem." Counseling may be recommended when needed.

"The goal is to prevent injuries," said Cockey, "not to continue in bad habits until serious problems appear in the musician's 40s." Frequent stretching exercises can relieve all kinds of stresses. She encourages musicians to frequently practice without using mindless repetition, applying such techniques as analytical mapping of a score--relying on other senses than physical practice.

This holistic approach to practice is a viable solution to Repetitive Motion Syndrome and a multitude of other performance issues. 
For information on "Wellness in Performance" call 410-543- 6030 or visit the University Web site at www.salisbury.edu.


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