Students musicians should have a basic understanding of health maintenance and safety during practice, performance, teaching and listening. this page contains resources to help you maintain your mental, neuromusculoskeletal, hearing, and vocal health. Students who are stage managers are also required to read the instruction manual and go through equipment training.
The Butler School cares about the health and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff. It is important for individuals to consider how their life choices can impact their health and musical performance. these resources informational in nature and are intended to provide a broad introduction to the occupational health concerns of musicians. They are not intended to be a substitute for the expertise of health care professionals. We encourage all Butler School faculty, staff and students to seek professional advice about specific concerns for health or well-being.
Crisis help is available to students through the UT Counseling & Mental Health Center (CMHC). The CMHC provides counseling, psychiatric, consultation, and prevention services that facilitate students' academic and life goals and enhance their personal growth and well-being.
Most people associate 911 with medical emergencies. However, 911 also assists with emergencies such as someone seriously considering suicide.
If You Are A UT student who is experiencing a personal crisis
Call the CMHC Crisis Line at 512-471-CALL (2255) (UT Students Only) to speak with a trained counselor about their situation. For Deaf/HH students please dial 711 and ask to be connected to (512) 471-2255. Students may also come to CMHC anytime Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 5 PM to meet face-to-face with a counselor (be sure to tell the reception staff that you need to talk with someone immediately).
Concerns about another person
If you have concerns about a student, faculty, or staff member in the UT community, contact the 24-hour Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL) at 512-232-5050. The BCAL line was developed by The university to provide a central resource for those who are concerned about an individual and are not sure how to help them.
Assistance for faculty and staff
If you are not affiliated with UT Austin
Practicing self-care can help you manage the daily stresses college life. Self-care refers to activities and practices that can help you to reduce your stress and enhance your overall well-being: essentially, proactively taking care of yourself. Self-care is essential in order to be successful inside and outside of the classroom.
Visit the CMCH Self-Care Resources page for helpful ideas for practicing self care, as well as resources for virtual and in-person mindfulness training.
The free Thrive at UT App is a tool to help students make small changes to their daily life to improve well-being.
Books that specifically address music performance and mental well-being:
The Art of Practicing: Making Music from the Heart
What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body
The Audition Process
Stuart Edward Dunkel
The Inner Game of Tennis
Timothy W. Gallwey
Mastery of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry
The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness
You Are Your Instrument: the Definitive Musician's Guide to Practice and Performance
Julie Lyonn Liebermann
These resources have been adapted from the NASM-PAMA documents on Musicians' Health and Safety.
The neuromusculoskeletal system refers to the complete system of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and associated nerves and tissues that allow us to move, speak, and sing. This system also supports our body's structure. The "neuro" part of the term "neuromusculoskeletal" refers to our nervous system that coordinates the ways in which our bodies move and operate. The nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the hundreds of billions of nerves responsible for transmitting information from the brain to the rest of the body and back again in an endless cycle. Our nervous systems allow us to move, to sense, and to act in both conscious and unconscious ways. We could not listen to, enjoy, sing, or play music without these structures. In fact, making any change in our approach to movement, particularly to the array of complex movements needed for the performance of music, means working closely with our nervous system so that any automatic, unconscious or poor habits may be replaced with healthy, constructive, and coordinate movement choices.
Basic Protection Steps For All Musicians:
Gain the information about the body that will help you move according to the body's design and structure. The parts of the human body most relevant to movement include the nervous system, the muscular system, and the skeletal system. Muscles move our bones at joints. Our bony structure is responsible for weight delivery and contributes to the support we need to move with ease and efficiency. There is nothing inherent in the design of our bodies or are instruments that should cause discomfort, pain or injury.
Learn what behaviors or situations put your neuromusculoskeletal health at risk and refrain from these behaviors and situations.
Always warm up before you practice, rehearse, or perform. It takes about 10 minutes before muscles are ready to fire at full capacity.
Monitor your practice to avoid strain and fatigue. This means taking breaks when needed, avoiding excessive repetition or practice time if you notice fatigue, strain or discomfort.
Use external support mechanisms when necessary such as neck straps, shoulder straps, proper bench or chair height.
For vocal health, be sure to drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses a day and limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Avoid smoking.
Be aware that some medications, such as allergy pills, may dry out your tissues. Beaware of side effects and consult your physician if you have questions.
Maintain good general health and functioning by getting adequate sleep, goodnutrition, and regular exercise.
For more information regarding musicians Neuromusculoskeletal Health, please visit Bodymap.org.
All students who participate in large ensembles at the Butler School of Music should read section on hearing health.
Hearing health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician. Your hearing can be permanently damaged by loud sounds, including music. Technically, this is called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Such danger is constant. Noise-induced hearing loss is generally preventable. You must avoid overexposure to loud sounds, especially for long periods of time. The closer you are to the source of a sound, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing. Sounds over 85dB (your typical vacuum cleaner) in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing. Risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound loudness and duration.
Recommended maximum daily exposure times (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are as follows:
85 dB (vacuum cleaner, mp3 player at 1/3 column) – 8 hours
90 dB (blender, hair dryer) – 2 hours
94 dB (mp3 player at 1/2 volume) – 1 hour
100 dB (mp3 player at full volume, lawnmower) – 15 minutes
110 dB (rock concert, power tools) – 2 minutes
120 dB (jet planes at take-off) – without ear protection, damage is almost immediate
Certain behaviors (controlling volume levels in practice and rehearsal, avoiding noisy environments, turning down the volume) reduce your risk of hearing loss. Be mindful of mp3 earbuds.
- When performing in either electric or acoustic ensembles, practice at safe volumes. Additionally, the use of earplugs and earmuffs can help to protect your hearing. Consider purchasing high-quality hearing protection such as custom molded earplugs.
- Day-to-day decisions can impact your hearing health, both now and in the future. Since sound exposure occurs in and out of school, you also need to learn more and take care of your hearing health on a daily, even hourly basis.
- When using headphones in labs or while recording, keep your monitoring levels low. This will protect your hearing and maintain your essential ability to notice detail. If your neighbor can hear the music from your headphones, you are monitoring with too much volume.
- If you are concerned about your personal hearing health, talk with a medical professional.
Additional Resources for Hearing Health
- Protect Your Hearing Everyday (NASM)
- Information for Faculty & Staff on Hearing Health (NASM)
- Advisories on Hearing Health (NASM)
- Occupational Noise Exposure (US Dept. of Occupational Health & Safety)
- Hearing Loss & Decibel Levels (New Orleans Musicians' Clinic)
- Noise Induced Hearing Loss (Hearing Loss Association of America)
- Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart (hearingconservation.org)
Vocal health is important for all musicians and is essential to lifelong success for singers. Understanding basic care of the voice is essential for musicians who speak, sing, and rehearse or teach others. Because practicing, rehearsing, and performing music are physically demanding activities, musicians are susceptible to numerous vocal disorders, many of which are preventable and/or treatable. Please contact your supervision professor or division head to address any vocal health concerns as soon as possible.
Points to consider
Sufficient warm-up time is important.
Begin warming up mid-range, and then slowly work outward to vocal pitch extremes.
Good posture, adequate breath support, and correct physical technique are essential.
Regular breaks during practice and rehearsal are vital in order to prevent undue physical or vocal stress and strain.
It is important to set a reasonable limit on the amount of time that you will practice in a day.
Avoid sudden increases in practice times.
Know your voice and its limits, and avoid overdoing it or misusing it.
Maintain healthy habits. Safeguard your physical and mental health.
Drink plenty of water in order to keep your vocal folds adequately lubricated. Limit your use of alcohol, and avoid smoking.
Day-to-day decisions can impact your vocal health, both now and in the future. Since vocal strain and a myriad of other injuries can occur in and out of school, you also need to learn more and take care of your own vocal health on a daily basis. Avoid shouting, screaming, or other strenuous vocal use.
If you are concerned about your personal vocal health, talk with a medical professional.
If you are concerned about your vocal health in relationship to your program of study, consult the appropriate contact person at your institution.
This section outlines safe lifting and carrying techniques, adapted from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Safety Requirement for a Safe Workplace. All new stage managers at the Butler School of Music should read this document for their safety, and the safety of others.
Points to Emphasize
- Carry heavy or awkward equipment as a team.
- Lift with the strong leg muscles, not the weaker back muscles.
- Proper methods of lifting and handling protect against injury. Proper lifting makes work easier. You need to think about what you are going to do before bending to pick up an object. Over time, safe lifting technique should become a habit.
Basic steps of safe lifting and handling heavy music equipment or instruments
Make it a habit to follow these steps when lifting anything—even a relatively light object.
Size up the load and check overall conditions. Don't attempt the lift by yourself if the load appears to be too heavy or awkward. Check that there is enough space for movement, and that the footing is good. "Good housekeeping" ensures that you won't trip or stumble over an obstacle.
Make certain that your balance is good. Feet should be shoulder width apart, with one foot beside and the other foot behind the object that is to be lifted.
Bend the knees; don't stoop. Keep the back straight, but not vertical. (Tucking in the chin straightens the back.)
Grip the load with the palms of your hands and your fingers. The palm grip is much more secure. Tuck in the chin again to make certain your back is straight before starting to lift.
Use your body weight to start the load moving, then lift by pushing up with the legs. This makes full use of the strongest set of muscles.
Keep the arms and elbows close to the body while lifting.
Carry the load close to the body. Don't twist your body while carrying the load. To change direction, shift your foot position and turn your whole body.
Watch where you are going!
To lower the object, bend the knees. Don't stoop. Make sure your hands and feet are clear when placing the load.
When moving a piano, bend your knees slightly and use both your arms and leg power to begin rolling. Move slowly, so that the piano does not build up momentum and skate over the edge of the stage. Once the piano is placed in the desired location on the stage, make sure you lock the legs in place, so that it does not movearound once the pianist begins to play, keeping everyone around it safe.