Tag Archives: article

harold bradley

Nashville Bids Farewell to One of Music City’s Founders, Harold Bradley

dave pomeroy

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM IEB Member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President

Former Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President and AFM Vice President Harold Bradley passed away January 31 at the age of 93. He was one of the most recorded guitarists in history and was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame.

On behalf of all members of the AFM, we offer our deepest condolences to his family as we celebrate the life and many accomplishments of Harold Bradley. His career as a musician leaves behind a legacy of classic recordings in multiple genres that will live on forever. His business acumen complemented his musical skills and Nashville is still reaping the positive results of the vision he shared with his older brother Owen that helped create the Music City we know today.

Harold joined Local 257 in 1942 and began his recording career in Chicago in 1946, and the next year, moved to Nashville’s first studio, Castle Recording. Responding to an increasing demand, he and Owen partnered in a series of recording studios in Nashville before building the Quonset Hut studio in 1955. This was the beginning of what we now know as Music Row. This unpretentious neighborhood became the epicenter of Nashville’s music business, with a concentration of creators and industry professionals unlike any other place on earth.

As what became known as the “Nashville sound” was coming together, Harold invented a new style of playing on a hybrid instrument, the six-string bass guitar. His percussive and melodic style of playing will forever be known as “tic-tac” bass. When someone asks, “What is tic-tac bass?” I point them to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” The combination of the attack of Harold’s muted picking and the sustain of Bob Moore’s string bass dancing with Buddy Harman’s drums is pure magic. We worked together quite a bit in the studio over the years, and Harold was a true professional. His calm, confident demeanor helped keep everyone around him focused and on top of their game.

harold bradley
Musician’s gathered for “A Great Day in Nashville” last year to celebrate the 92nd birthday of former AFM International Vice President and former Local 257 President Harold Bradley. Pictured (L to R) from front row are: Row 1: Jerry Kennedy, Ray Edenton, Harold Bradley, Bob Moore, and Pat Flynn; Row 2: Jimmie Lee Sloas, Dan Huff, Elliot Huff, Kenny Malone, Norbert Putnam, Billy Sanford, D. Bergen White, David Briggs, Mike Brignardello, B. James Lowry, and Tony Harrell; Row 3: Glen Duncan, Gary Prim, Steve Gibson, Eddie Bayers, and Dave Pomeroy; Row 4: Pat Bergeson, Sam Bush, Shane Keister, Scotty Sanders, David Hungate, Paul Leim, Steve Hinson, Matt Rollings, Duncan Mullins, Dennis Crouch, Bruce Bouton, Jim Hoke, Alison Prestwood, Chris McDonald, Kirk “Jelly Roll” Johnson, and Andrea Zonn; Row 5: Gordon Kennedy, Jerry Kroon, Rob Hajacos, David Hoffner, Andre Reiss, Tony Migliore, Fred Newell, Pete Abbott, Chris Leuzinger, Greg Morrow, Denis Solee, Byron House, Aubrey Haynie, Michael Rhodes, Bobby Ogdin, Jonathan Yudkin, Bob Mater, Troy Lancaster, Jim “Moose” Brown, Jay Vern, and Joe Spivey.

But there is more to Harold’s story and his legacy than his musical accomplishments and business skills. The Bradley brothers, together with Chet Atkins and George Cooper, longtime president of Local 257, created an unprecedented music industry model built on talent, trust, and mutual respect between employers and musicians. When the major labels began setting up shop here, these musical and business pioneers made it clear that Nashville’s studio musicians were to be paid properly under AFM contracts. This crucial factor is the reason why musicians, songwriters, and artists have been coming here for decades—to be treated as professionals. The positive impact of their ethical approach to business is immeasurable and is one of the main reasons Nashville has become Music City.

In 1990, Harold was elected president of Local 257 at an uncertain time in our history. He didn’t have to take on that job, but he did, and we were better off for it. Despite Tennessee’s right-to-work (for less) status, Nashville’s high level of voluntary compliance with union agreements is unique and demonstrates that it is possible to work cooperatively with employers. Harold embodied that approach in his own gentlemanly fashion. He led a successful effort to create a more affordable scale for Christian labels and brought many independent labels—large and small—into the fold.

After his election to the AFM International Executive Board in 1999, Harold became a spokesperson for musicians on the national stage. As I got more involved in AFM and Local 257 business, I knew I could go to him with an honest question and get an honest answer. Even when we disagreed on certain issues, he was willing to listen to an alternate viewpoint without losing his cool. Through it all, we respected each other.

Local 257 has a tradition of allowing its elected officers to continue to work. At our first membership meeting after I was elected president in 2009, Harold stood up and made the motion that I should be allowed to work, as he and others had done before me. That meant a lot. I consulted with him many times over the ensuing years, and his knowledge, perspective, and experience was always helpful. He continued to record, perform, and produce recordings right up until the last year of his life, which was inspiring to see.

We had a wonderful gathering for Harold’s 92nd birthday last year, and took a group picture with more than 50 players that I will always treasure as “A Great Day in Nashville.” Harold Bradley gave the world thousands of “great days” with his life’s work, and I am honored to carry on the important mission of promoting respect for musicians.

Reggie Young

We lost another extraordinary life member of our local January 17 when guitarist Reggie Young passed on at the age of 82. Over his long career, the influential studio guitarist recorded with everyone from Elvis Presley to Merle Haggard and created unforgettable hooks on classics like Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” The Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby,” Haggard’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind,” and countless other hits. Despite his iconic status, Young was one of the nicest people to ever walk the face of this earth. He treated everyone the same, whether they were famous or not. His final solo album, Forever Young, released in 2017, is a beautiful piece of work. We salute his body of work and his legacy as a fine human being.


SphinxConnect: An Epicenter for Artists and Leaders in Diversity

After 20 years of solid growth, SphinxConnect has become the quintessential gathering for black and Latinx musicians. It brings together talented artists, businesses, national funding agencies, and academics to share philosophical and practical strategies that connect talented artist-practitioners of symphonic music. The 22nd annual Sphinx Competition, held prior to SphinxConnect, offers young black and Latinx classical musicians a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with established professional musicians in a competition setting.

Over the years, the cooperative effort of these individuals and organizations has generated significant results that will lead to lasting solutions to questions surrounding diversity and inclusion in American orchestras. Most notably, American orchestras have now invested financially in their diversity.

The 2019 Sphinx Symphony Orchestra performing under the direction of Maestro Michael Morgan, performing at SphinxConnect in the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, Michigan.

Key to the success of this professional growth is the chance to coordinate high level performance opportunities. Historically, several institutions have emerged as pillars to provide exceptional performance opportunities for musicians of color.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra is one of many ensembles that has served this purpose. Historically, organizations like Baltimore Colored Symphony Orchestra founded in 1930 under Music Director William Llewellyn Wilson; the Chicago Sinfonietta founded in 1987 by Maestro Paul Freeman; and the Symphony of the New World of New York (not to be confused with the New World Symphony in Florida) founded in 1965 by Lucille Dixon, Elaine Jones, Harry Smyles, Joe Wilder, Wilmer Wise, and Kermit Moore, under the direction of Maestros Dean Dixon, Everett Lee, and Benjamin Steinberg. This orchestra, of which I was a member from 1972-1975, served as the predecessor to today’s Sphinx Orchestra, which showcases extraordinary talents. The Sphinx Orchestra is currently led by Maestro Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra and the Gateways Music Festival.

Diversity in Orchestras

I have been involved in orchestra diversity for many years now. I took my first deep dive into the professional world as a player in 1971. I was first immersed in this world of orchestral diversity when I was selected to participate in the Music Assistance Fund (MAF) program, which selected 15 minority players from around the US to be mentored, rehearse, and perform with the New York Philharmonic in 1973. I had previously performed in Washington, DC, as an extra player with the National Symphony Orchestra and as principal timpanist of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Opera Orchestra. The MAF experience, under New York Phil Administrator Dr. Leon Thompson, served as my launching pad to the world of diversity in American orchestras. That experience left me following the ups and downs for 46 years.

I know that diversity can be achieved with the right focus as illustrated by the exceptional work of Aaron and Afa Dworkin and the Sphinx administrative team. “Transforming lives through the power of diversity” has been the organization’s focus for more than 20 years. For those who need a vision, you need not look any farther than the accompanying photo.

The AFM’s Investment

As noted by Sphinx administrators, the AFM has a long history of supporting the organization. More than half of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra comprises AFM members who work under collective bargaining agreements across the US. This year, the AFM was represented by Symphonic Services Director Rochelle Skolnick, Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) President John Michael Smith, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Meredith Snow, ICSOM Delegate Brad Mansell, ROPA Board Member Maya Stone, and me.

Like many professional minority driven projects across the US that offer professional performing opportunities to musicians of color, SphinxConnect is an AFM investment that continues to yield positive results.

The AFM Diversity Committee wants to hear about your experiences. We encourage you to tell us your union diversity stories to possibly share them and inspire others. By joining forces and resources, we can all achieve our shared goal of artistic excellence and recognition. Write to me at apollard@afm.org or to AFM Diversity Committee Chair Lovie Smith-Wright at lsw@afmhouston.com.

Changes at the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada/CBC Agreement Update

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

I have been advised that long-time employer trustee and chair of the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada, Stanley J. Shortt, has retired from the board of trustees for personal reasons. A former senior executive whose corporate associations had included Eaton’s, Simpson’s, HBC, the TSO, and the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts, Shortt was an integral part of the team for almost 30 years and was always committed to serve in the best interests of the membership.

Continue reading
income from recording

Maximize Your Income from Recordings

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

I am pleased to report that the General Agreement for Commercial Announcements (Canada) has been ratified. While there have been some delays in editing, I expect printing and distribution to take place shortly. I would like to thank Local 149 (Toronto, ON) Executive Director Michael Murray, rank-and-file members Chris Tait, Jane Heath, and Nicola Treadgold of Local 149, as well as Director of Administration Susan Whitfield and Electronic Media Supervisor Dan Calabrese from the Canadian Office for their diligence, patience, and foresight. Without these folks, such an excellent result would not have been possible.

Continue reading

Rallying in Support of Striking Lyric Opera Orchestra Musicians

Following is the text of a speech I gave October 12, in Chicago’s Daley Plaza in support of striking Lyric Opera Orchestra musicians.

Hello Sweet Home Chicago! It’s a privilege to be here with officers of our great affiliated Local 10-208, the Chicago Federation of Musicians, folks from the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Illinois State AFL-CIO, and of course, members of our Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Continue reading
ocsm-omosc conference

2018 OCSM-OMOSC Conference Offers Timely Discussions

by Melissa Goodchild, Secretary OCSM-OMOSC and Member of Local 553 (Saskatoon, SK) and Matt Heller, Vice President OCSM-OMOSC and Member of Local 547 (Calgary, AB)

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

The 43rd annual Conference of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) was held August 13-17 at the Hotel Pur in Quebec City, Quebec. The Players’ Association of the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec hosted the conference.

Quebec and Bilingualism

Since 2008, the Quebec Symphony Players’ Association, AMMOSQ, has operated as an independent bargaining agent outside of the AFM. Delegates passed a resolution urging reconciliation between musicians of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and Local 406, the AFM local representing all of Quebec.

The executive board acknowledged that OCSM has not done enough to engage with francophone members. OCSM is a bilingual organization, and as such, would like to do more. Delegates passed a resolution recommitting the organization to create a culture welcoming to francophone members; to facilitate greater exchange and interaction with members in their native language; and to work towards ideals and principles of bilingualism set forth in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Media and Communications

The Canadian Symphonic Media Agreement, negotiated by the CFM and a group of Canadian symphony managers, is now being offered for use by Canadian orchestras. The agreement sets conditions and fees for streaming and on-demand distribution of live performances. It is considered an experimental agreement; further details are available by contacting Symphonic Services Division Canada Director Bernard LeBlanc.

It has been a year of revelations of sexual harassment and toxic workplaces. Legal counsel Michael Wright discussed processes for investigation of allegations, how organizations can offer due process to all parties, as well as steps towards remediation, where circumstances allow.

A role-playing workshop titled “The Curious Case of Charles the Cellist” highlighted the complex ambiguities of a disciplinary meeting held amidst unfounded allegations. AFM Symphonic Services Division Director Rochelle Skolnick designed the scenario and led an informative debriefing session, exploring relevant case law applicable both in the US and Canada.

A workshop on decision bias in the audition process was led by Local 149 (Toronto, ON) member Lisa Chisholm. It demonstrated how even well-intentioned committee members can be swayed by nonmusical factors, as well as verbal and nonverbal cues made by colleagues.

The Musicians’ Pension Fund (MPF) of Canada report outlined recent and prospective legislative changes affecting target-benefit multi-employer pension plans. The MPF follows Ontario law and the status of Ontario’s proposed rules is highly uncertain.

ocsm-omosc conference
Delegates and presenters at the 2018 OCSM Conference held in Quebec City, Quebec.

Conference Topics

Auditions are a perennial subject for debate; a recent resolution by the Canadian Conference of Locals recommended that orchestras add CBA provisions specifying eligibility requirements for national auditions. One Canadian orchestra has determined that holding national auditions is no longer necessary under federal immigration requirements.

Diversity, inclusion, and representation are all matters of great concern among orchestras. A wide-ranging discussion touched on issues of colonialism, community impact, engagement, gender parity, programming, youth orchestras, grant agencies and criteria, and acknowledgment speeches.

Airline policy and regulations on importing rare and endangered materials were discussed, since the AFM has pursued advocacy on both fronts. An informational booklet prepared by the AFM and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is available to inform members and gate/security agents of current policies.

Resolutions and Elections

Tommy Banks was honoured for astounding musicianship and inspiring advocacy. Banks appeared as keynote speaker at the 2016 Conference in Calgary and was a key player in the creation of Edmonton’s Winspear Centre. He was added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

Two dedicated unionists and administrators were also honoured for their contributions to Canadian musicians: Ellen Versteeg-Lytwyn, who retires this year after 46 years as fund administrator for the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada and Len Lytwyn, who served as executive director of the AFM Canadian Office and as founding director of Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada. Len Lytwyn passed away in July. Both were added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

A resolution calling on the AFM to uphold and communicate best practices regarding data security was passed by delegates. Identity theft has been a growing concern for musicians, and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) strongly discourages the use of Social Insurance Numbers as customer identity numbers; the AFM now has unique member numbers.

Saskatoon Symphony Delegate Melissa Goodchild was elected secretary, while Treasurer Liz Johnston and First Vice-President Matt Heller were re-elected. All OCSM officers serve two-year terms.

ropa conference

Delegates from 89 Orchestras Meet at 2018 ROPA Conference

by Karen Sandene, ROPA Secretary and Member of Locals 70-558 (Omaha, NE) and 463 (Lincoln, NE)

The Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), with 89 member orchestras at the time of this writing, represents AFM union orchestras from all parts of the country. Our annual conference gives us a terrific opportunity to work with our colleagues. For the past 35 years, delegates have gathered in many of our orchestras’ communities, including our two Portlands. This year’s conference was in Portland, Oregon. (Our 2011 conference was in Portland, Maine). Our hosts this year were AFM Local 99 (Portland, OR) and the Portland Opera Orchestra. Joining us at this conference were our four new ROPA Orchestras: San Jose Opera Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic Opera, Marin Symphony, and Cape Symphony.

At the 2018 ROPA Conference, held July 31-August 2, delegates gained knowledge from peers and experts in our industry, covering the topics of negotiating, union organizing, interpersonal relationships, musician self-care, financial health, and the overall state of our profession.

Local speakers at the conference included Local 99 President and International Vice President Bruce Fife and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlin. After welcoming delegates to Portland, Fife was proud to present a locally produced film promoting Portland that included a 61-piece locally hired orchestra.

Chamberlin, representing Oregon’s 300,000 AFL-CIO members, gave an inspiring talk describing the proactive measures they’ve taken to counteract unfavorable court decisions against unions. Attorney Liza Hirsch Medina covered a similar topic when she presented an in-depth look at the Janus decision and its effect on unions. She described the importance of organizing in the face of upcoming court and legislative challenges to union protections.

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck and musician Norma Stiner shared the successful journey of organizing ROPA’s newest orchestra, Cape Symphony. AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Negotiator, Organizer, and Educator Todd Jelen highlighted the importance of new musician recruitment/orientation and the optimum moments to approach potential members.

Diversity Consultant Shea Scruggs presented “Seeing the Blind Spots: An Inclusive Vision for American Orchestras.” He spoke of the need to confront our cognitive biases and improve our organizational cultures. Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President and Diversity Committee member Lovie Smith-Wright and AFM Diversity, Legislative, and Political Director Alfonso Pollard discussed projects that the AFM Diversity Committee has taken on this year.

SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick led a timely discussion on identifying sexual harassment in the workplace and how to deal with it. On the topic of musician self-care, Audiologist Heather Malyuk of Soundcheck Audiology followed up her popular 2017 presentation with specifics on how various methods of hearing protection work or don’t work in an orchestral setting. We examined performance anxiety through the film Composed, by John Beder. The filmmaker took questions from delegates.

AFM President Ray Hair discussed the current status of the AFM Pension fund. A panel of pension trustees and administrators took questions from the delegates.

ropa conference
Newly elected ROPA Board members (L to R) Naomi Bensdorf Frisch, Sean Diller, Kendra Hawley, Lisa Davis, Casey Bozell, Steve Wade, John Michael Smith, Karen Sandene, Amanda Swain, Christian Green, Maya Stone, Katie Shields. Not Pictured: Cory Tiffin.

Representatives from our fellow AFM Conferences highlighted their year’s activities: Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (President Robert Fraser), Theater Musicians Association (Director, Member at Large Lovie Smith-Wright), Recording Musicians Association (Gary Lasley), and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (President Paul Austin). Alfonso Pollard detailed the legislative success in protecting the National Endowment for the Arts. Austin related progress on the new online survey for the ICSOM Conductor Evaluation Database.

Every year, delegates get the opportunity to attend a Negotiating Orchestras Workshop (held July 30 this year), where they learn necessary skills to improve our working conditions and financial standing. They also engage in valuable small group discussions with their members at large, sharing successes and challenges with delegates from orchestras of similar budget sizes.

Throughout the conference, AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick, Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark, Chief Field Negotiator Chris Durham, Negotiators Jane Owen and Todd Jelen, and Contract Administrator Laurence Hofmann taught the “nuts and bolts” for improving our contracts and organizational structures. Our orchestras benefit so much from their expertise!

Following the election of officers, the 2018-19 ROPA Executive Board will include President John Michael Smith (Minnesota Opera Orchestra, Local 30-73), Vice President Amanda Swain (Houston Ballet and Grand Opera orchestras, Local 65-699), Secretary Karen Sandene (Omaha and Lincoln symphony orchestras, Locals 70-558 and 463), Treasurer Sean Diller (Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Local 232-278), AFM Convention Delegate-at-Large Naomi Bensdorf Frisch (Illinois Philharmonic and Wisconsin Chamber orchestras, Local 10-208), and Members-at-Large Casey Bozell (Portland Opera Orchestra, Local 99), Lisa Davis (Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Local 579), Christian Green (Ann Arbor Symphony, Local 625), Kendra Hawley (Palm Beach Opera, Local 655), Katie Shields (Arizona Opera Symphony Orchestra, Local 586), Maya Stone (Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Locals 80 and 257), Cory Tiffin (Las Vegas Philharmonic, Locals 369 and 10-208), and Steve Wade (Local 400, Hartford Symphony Orchestra).

And finally, we offer our sincere appreciation to conference hosts, the musicians of the Portland Opera Orchestra, Local 99, Portland Local 99 President Bruce Fife, and numerous hard-working local volunteers. We would especially like to thank Portland Opera Delegate Casey Bozell for her outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference. We look forward to our 36th Annual Conference in 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts!

Labor Day 2018

Los Angeles, CA | Local 47

labor day
Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) members joined with fellow union members for the annual Labor Day Parade and picnic organized by Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition.
Photo: Clifford Tasner
labor  day

Detroit, MI | Local 5

labor day
In Detroit, Local 5 (Detroit, MI) musicians marched alongside thousands of their union brothers and sisters.
labor day

New Orleans, LA | Local 174-496

labor day
Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO President Robert “Tiger” Hammond (left) announces the Treme Brass Band, while AFM Local 174-496 Board Member John Bassich stands by the stage.
Photo: Cindy Mayes
labor day
Members of Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO unions enjoy the Treme Brass Band, members of Local 174-496 (New Orleans, LA).
Photo: Cindy Mayes

Hamilton, ON | Local 293

labor day
Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) members (L to R) Paul Panchezak, John Morris, and Kyle Pacy march in the Hamilton Labor Day Parade.
Photo: Brent Malseed
labor day
Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) musicians pose for a photo at the Hamilton Labor Day picnic.
Photo: Brent Malseed

Nashville, TN | Local 257

labor day
Local 257 (Nashville, TN) Secretary-Treasurer Vince Santoro, Nashville Symphony Steward Laura Ross, and accompanist Barbara Santoro at the Central Labor Council Labor Day Parade, September 1 in Nashville.

New York, NY | Local 802

labor day
Local 802 (New York City) member musicians pose for a photo following the New York City Labor Day Parade.
Photo: Todd Weeks
labor day
In New York City, Local 802 members marched and rode a float in the city’s annual parade.
Photo: Rochelle Skolnick

Washington, DC | Local 161-710

labor day
Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) members Clarence Mitchell, Jan Duga, Dennis Ferry, Zenas Kim-Banthe, and Doug Rosenthal march with sheet metal workers in the Greenbelt, Maryland, Labor Day Parade, Monday, September 3.
labor day
Local 161-710 members Mark Hughes, Fred Marcellus, Dennis Ferry, Doug Rosenthal, and Jan Duga with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (center) at the Northern Virginia Labor Day Picnic, Sunday, September 2.
pain and strain

Muscles in Play: Avoiding Pain and Strain

Playing is all about repetition so overuse can be synonymous with a music career. Proper posture and holding an instrument correctly are key to avoiding strain. And, because certain muscles are used repeatedly when playing, musicians should take care not to overuse those muscles during other daily activities.

If possible, hold joints in a neutral position. For example, to prevent wrist tendonitis, keep your wrist in a straight position when not playing, instead of extremely bent or flexed. This will help alleviate the added stress placed on tendons during a performance. Also, as a preventative exercise, be sure to stretch regularly.

Early intervention means you should not play through the pain. Immediate treatment is essential to prevent long-term injury. Pay attention to your pain, noting changes or increases. Encourage students to tell parents or teachers when they experience pain. Teachers should also be alert to changes in a student’s technique or style.

Tendonitis vs. Tendonosis

Naming the pain is important. Tendonitis is inflammation (redness, swelling, heat, soreness) that occurs when the immune system detects an injury and responds. The body increases the flow of blood and infection-fighting substances to the injured tendon.

Tendonosis is a degenerative injury that does not prompt an immune response. It occurs when repetitive stress over time causes the breakdown of collagen, growth of abnormal blood vessels, and thickening of the tendon’s sheath. Research suggests that many injuries diagnosed as tendonitis are actually tendonosis.

Repeated or sustained muscular contraction associated with mastering virtually any musical instrument causes a decrease in blood flow to the working muscles and tendons. In the case of overuse injuries, the body is signaled to repair muscles that are not really damaged. The result is accumulation of scar tissue in otherwise healthy muscles and tendons, which increases stress on the tendons causing them to begin to degenerate.

Scar tissue prevents normal stretching and limits muscle contraction. This can cause decreased range of motion, decreased strength, fatigue, and pain. Physicians say pain is often the last symptom. The involved muscle is then weakened, requiring neighboring muscles to overwork. This cycle of increasing stress, buildup of scar tissue, and degeneration continues until the body can no longer compensate. The result is chronic pain.

Intermission—Take a Break!

If you have an audition, concert, or festival coming up, do not rehearse all night. Spread out practice sessions. Take a break after about 45 minutes, whenever possible. Researchers say the instance of injury goes up dramatically after 45 minutes of continuous activity. Adequate rest reduces muscle tension as do proper posture and body mechanics.

Also, do not dramatically increase playing time. As athletes can attest, this presents high injury risk. An average 5K runner would not suddenly run a marathon. In the off-season, athletes cross-train. So, when not at festivals, concerts, or auditions, take time to do other activities and exercises.

Strengthen to the Core

Cardiovascular exercise and moving in general are important, especially for musicians who spend a lot of time sitting. Critical to handling, moving, and supporting instruments is strengthening other muscles: the core, upper back, and shoulders all support areas of your body used when playing.

Back pain and pain of the upper extremities are common, whether it’s shoulder pain for high string and flute players or elbow strain for violinists. Bowing techniques put strain on the right shoulder and elbow. Brass players may have back pain, consistent with having to support heavy instruments. The list goes on.

For Good Measure

Watch a video of your performance or practice to critically review your stance and playing position. Ask yourself: Do I seem to have excessive tension? Where is that tension showing up? Is it one-sided? Does it appear in my shoulders, in my hands? Do I make any extraneous movements? Do I move too much or too little?

Remember, to avoid injuries and recover from minor pains: use proper posture and body mechanics, stretch often, build your muscle strength and endurance through exercise, ramp up your playing gradually, and take frequent breaks. Always consult a physician at the first indication of pain or injury.