Preparing the ground for long term health and well-being: How to implement music physiology in music education

Maria Schuppert, MD
University of Music Wuerzburg, Germany


Physical and psychological well-being are prerequisites for the evolvement of musical skills, for efficient and joyful music learning, and for top performance. Concerning the sensorimotor and musculoskeletal system as well as mental strength, musicians are virtually ´peak-performance athletes`.

Therefore, aspects of music physiology – in terms of early information, sensitization, prevention, and intervention – should be integrated in music pedagogy from the very beginning, in order to support musical potential and to reduce the risk of eventually developing physical or psychological disorders. With the onset of professional musical training, music physiology needs to be intensified. Thus, implementing well-structured musicians’ health programs at music universities plays a crucial role in our efforts to promote specific health care for singers and instrumentalists. These programs, however, do not only aim at our students` personal health, but also at broadening their pedagogical concepts as future music teachers.

Within the last two decades, a number of music universities in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland set up a range of compulsory and elective courses covering basic and advanced knowledge in music physiology, body techniques, psychological strategies and fitness, and in addition offer individual musicians` medicine counseling. It has proven immensely beneficial if physicians and therapists are actually based at the music university, thus enabling an immediate exchange with students and pedagogues.

Musicians` health programs – for music schools as well as for music universities – have to meet clinical and scientific standards, but also need a holistic approach and have to be well adjusted to the particular needs of instrumentalists and singers.

In my presentation I will focus on some (neuro-)physiological aspects of lifelong practicing and performance, outline musicians` health programs for different age groups, and give insights into the most common as well as some rare musicians` health problems, including multidisciplinary, multimodal therapeutic approaches.