Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.
The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.
Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.
August 29, 2019IM -
Helping Musicians Prevent Injury, Enhance Artistry
Sometimes, things that are obvious are not always recognized as useful. When it comes to a musician’s health, one of the best ways to prevent or recover from an injury is to understand the mechanics of your body and train, or re-train, your body to move as it was designed. This is the essence of the practice of Body Mapping.
“Body Mapping is learning about the truth of the anatomy and using that to investigate how you move when making music,” says Jane Murray, a licensed Body Mapping instructor with the body mapping educators association, Andover Educators. “Your body map determines how you use your body. If your map is off, your movement is off, resulting in potential for pain, injury, and/or limitation.”
For musicians, Body Mapping teaches them to “question their own concept” of how they are designed (their body map) and to use a knowledge of anatomical size, structure, and function to learn how correcting inaccurate maps improves facility, ease, and efficiency in playing, says Murray of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and Local 198-457 (Providence, RI), and principal English horn for the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
Mismapping of the body occurs when a musician (or anyone) moves repeatedly in a certain way running contrary to the actual design of the body, says Jennifer Johnson of Local 820 (St. John’s, NL), who is a violinist, Licensed Body Mapping Instructor at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Music, and also a teacher trainer with Andover Educators. “‘Keeping the shoulders down’ is a common misconception in music pedagogy, for instance, that leads to unnecessary and habitual muscular work in the upper torso and neck and impedes free movement of the arms,” she says. “Once arms have moved often enough with muscles trying to hold ‘shoulders down,’ the brain decides this must be the ‘right’ way to do it and so it feels ‘right’ and familiar to the player even though it’s causing discomfort and pain—this is considered a mismapping.”
Body Mapping is taught by experts both in one-on-one and in group settings through the workshop titled “What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body.” The course was developed from concepts for “movement re-education” by William and Barbara Conable in the 1970s.
“The first lesson is to understand that musicians move for a living, but how we move is not part of our actual training,” Murray says. “We teach the truth of the anatomy and how to use your body structures as they are designed to be used.” In other words, she says, it’s about awareness. It’s about getting people to think on a different level. Body Mapping deals with the entire body, not necessarily focusing on one particular area. “This may solve a perceived problem without necessarily going straight at it. The problem is hardly ever where you think it is, which is why it can be valuable to everyone,” says Murray.
Trombonist Mark Weaver took Murray’s Body Mapping class a few years ago, and the result was a greater comfort and efficiency in his playing, a better sound, and, he believes, the extension of his overall playing career. “Understanding your body and how it relates to your instrument is paramount,” says Weaver, 63, a member of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT) and Local 284-40 (New London, CT). He has been a professional musician for 45 years, including 29 years as the principal trombonist for the US Coast Guard Band. He now works freelance in numerous orchestras. “It was really informative, and also a very intensive course.”
Weaver says he spent a month practicing the exercises and techniques he learned, but started getting frustrated that it did not seem to be doing anything. But all of a sudden it was “like a switch came on,” he says. He became more relaxed in his playing, he was taking better breaths, his posture improved, and he started doing all of these things reflexively and unconsciously—and his music sounded better.
“It definitely improved my efficiency,” he says. “I think it’s really important, especially to pedagogy and being a good musician and understanding how our bodies work. I was thrilled to find it.”
Much can be learned by studying anatomical images and models and finding out what surprises you about what you see, Johnson says. “If you feel surprised by the size, number or shapes of the bones you’re looking at, it’s likely you are carrying a misconception about how you’re supposed to move there and therefore you are likely moving against the design of your body. More often than not, this is what is causing the pain or the chronic tension.”
Murray and Johnson both say they love seeing their students catch onto the lessons of Body Mapping and realize the benefits it can have. For many instructors, in fact, it’s personal because they, too, suffered some sort of injury that needed healing.
Murray discovered Body Mapping after she developed elbow problems. “It basically saved my career,” she says, because it taught her to work easier, not harder. “We’ve all been indoctrinated that the more hours we practice, the harder we work, the better we get. No. We need to practice smarter, not harder. People out there have never been told there’s another way to do it, another way to look at it. But there is, if you’re open to it,” Murray says. “Instead of always looking for a musical solution to a musical problem, the solution may be as simple as a change in the way we move the body.”
For more information about body mapping, or to find a class near you, visit http://bodymap.org.