Tag Archives: resources

steps using fixed do

STEPS Using Fixed DO: Strategies & Tools Encouraging Proficient Sightsinging

steps using fixed do

Written for choirs of all types, this book provides a systematic and sequential process for those who teach sight reading using Fixed DO (the key of C). The book is organized by key so that students are immersed in a key, enabling them to identify the steps of the scales on sight as well as the intervals from the tonic triad.

STEPS Using Fixed DO: Strategies & Tools Encouraging Proficient Sightsinging, by Denise Eaton in collaboration with Janice Bradshaw

life in music from the soviet union to canada

A Life in Music from the Soviet Union to Canada: Memoirs of a Madrigal Ensemble Singer

life in music from the soviet union to canada

The musical career of Alexander Tumanov extends from Stalinist and Soviet Russia through contemporary Canada, and provides a portrait of one person’s devotion to his art under trying circumstances. The story of the author’s life and career in Canada provides a poignant point of contrast with his Soviet period—at the musical, academic, and political levels.

A Life in Music from the Soviet Union to Canada: Memoirs of a
Madrigal Ensemble Singer, by Alexander Tumanov, translated
and edited by Vladimir Tumanov, University of North Texas Press, www.untpress.unt.edu.

insight singing

InSight Singing: Fixed DO

insight singing

Based on a multi-sensory approach to music reading, this book integrates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles to achieve confident sight-reading skills. Learning strategies will help choral singers improve reading accuracy, increase their ability to recognize and perform rhythmic tonal patterns, and sing with accurate pitch and rhythm.

InSight Singing: Fixed DO. A Multi-Sensory Approach to Reading Music Using Fixed Do, by Denise Eaton, Jan Juneau, and Sally Schott

no walls and the recurring dream

No Walls and the Recurring Dream

no walls and the recurring dream

In her new memoir, Ani DiFranco of Local 1000 (Nongeographic) recounts her early life from a place of hard-won wisdom, combining personal expression, the power of music, political activism, storytelling, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and much more into an inspiring whole. Her coming-of-age story is defined by her ethos of fierce independence—from being an emancipated minor sleeping in a Buffalo bus station, to building a career through appearances at small clubs and festivals, to releasing her first album at age 18, to rejecting the mainstream recording industry and creating her own label.

No Walls and the Recurring Dream, by Ani DiFranco,
Penguin Random House, www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

lyme disease

Summer is Coming, Remember to Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease

When it comes to health, the fear of any musician is contracting a disease or condition that impedes or even prevents the ability to make music. Imagine suffering from severe fatigue or anxiety, chronic muscle spasms or joint pain, constant headaches and sensitivity to sound and light—and having no clue where it came from, what it is, or even how to effectively treat it. Unfortunately, this happens all too often with the continued rise in Lyme disease cases throughout North America.

With the arrival of summer, it is a good time to review and remember the threat that Lyme disease poses to anyone who steps outside. For musicians who may spend hours at outdoor rehearsals and performances, the risk is important to keep in mind.

lyme disease

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the incidence of Lyme disease in the United States has approximately doubled since 1991, increasing from 3.74 reported cases per 100,000 people to 7.95 reported cases per 100,000 people in 2014. An estimated 300,000 people are infected with the illness annually.

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmitted through the bite of a deer tick. Most people are infected through the bites of tiny, immature ticks called nymphs, which most commonly bite during spring and summer. In the majority of cases, the appearance of a rash resembling a bull’s eye or solid patch, about two inches in diameter, appears and expands around or near the site of the bite.

According to the CDC, early stage symptoms of the disease include fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. People treated with oral antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin for early Lyme disease usually recover quickly. If Lyme disease is unrecognized or left untreated during the early stage, however, more serious symptoms may occur including acute fatigue, a stiff aching neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or even facial paralysis. The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. These can include severe headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous system problems. This requires a longer duration antibiotic therapy treatment.

lyme disease

Unfortunately, one of the major battles of Lyme disease sufferers is first getting the right medical diagnosis. Doctors often are not looking for Lyme disease and patients may not realize they have it by either not recognizing the rash for what it is, or by masking the usual symptoms through the use of over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications.

One of the more well-known cases of celebrity Lyme disease in recent years was that of songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) who suffered ailments for years—and was given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s—before he was tested and diagnosed with Lyme disease. Other musicians who contracted Lyme disease and have gone public with their suffering and how the illness has affected their career include Deborah Gibson of Local 802 (New York City), Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Daryl Hall, and Pete Seeger.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take precautions when spending time outdoors. Ticks favor moist, shaded environments, especially leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats. If you are recreationally moving about in tick-infested areas, the most common advice from health organizations such as the CDC and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is to wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily, walk in the middle of designated trails, wear closed-toed shoes, avoid low-lying brush or long grass, and tuck pant legs into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.

But what if you are a musician performing at or attending an outdoor venue where you have a stricter dress code, and perhaps long grass or other potential tick habitats are unavoidable? The CDC also recommends using insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin on skin and clothing and be sure to check your body for ticks when you get home (under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist). It is also important to shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks. According to medical experts, if a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small.

For more information about Lyme disease and preventing Lyme disease, visit www.lymedisease.org.


Pilates for Musicians: Great Exercise for Seated Athletes

by Eva Stern, Member of Local 134 (Jamestown, NY) and Violist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra

When I began playing regularly with symphony orchestras after graduating from school, I was not done learning how to play. (Not that we ever are!) I had the sense that if I became stronger and more graceful, I would improve as a musician. I was already practicing a variety of movement techniques and eventually came upon Pilates. I credit regular practice of Pilates with the maintenance of my own health as a violist. Now I have gone through comprehensive training to become a Pilates teacher. I would like to share what I have learned with other musicians, both students and professionals.

Pilates teacher and violist Eva Stern of Local 134 (Jamestown, NY) works with violist Jocelyn Smith of Locals 123 (Richmond, VA) and 125 (Norfolk) on the Pilates chair.

Joseph Pilates began developing his method of exercise, originally called “Contrology,” around the turn of the 20th century. He moved to New York City from Germany in 1926, where he opened a studio in a building shared with the New York City Ballet. He developed a strong relationship with the dance community, working with prominent dancers, including George Balanchine and dancers from the NYC Ballet. Today, Pilates is a regular part of dance education. There are good reasons to include it in music education as well.

As musicians, we are athletes as well as artists. Students of orchestral instruments must learn how to pace themselves and how to understand efficient movement. For long-time orchestral musicians, the concerns are maintaining fitness, injury prevention, and maintaining technique at a high level. There is also the matter of how to perform highly specific technical and rhythmic actions while seated in a chair—a position that, when maintained for hours at a time, can have a deleterious effect on the body.

Pilates addresses these issues by focusing on the interconnectedness of the body. Two defining principles of Pilates are balanced muscle development and whole body movement. It might not seem intuitive, but proper strength and alignment in the legs or pelvis can work wonders for freeing tightness in the upper body. One of the more surprising things about Pilates is how exercises for one area of the body can bring a dramatic sense of freedom to another. Even more interesting is the delayed effect. Sometimes I experience a release in my neck and shoulders hours or days after a workout.

Musicians often benefit from massage, chiropractic, or other forms of bodywork. Regular practice of Pilates is complementary and can prolong the effects of bodywork between visits. Just as a massage therapist manipulates the muscles and fascia with their hands, the muscles and fascia are moved in an organized way through Pilates. I have seen Pilates help musicians address a variety of important issues: excessive tightness, hypermobility, and pain.

Photo: Jennifer Ilene Photography

Longtime players may notice some aspect of their technique that seems to be degrading; I’ve observed how technique can greatly improve when the body is restored to proper balance. When we’re playing we are focused on the music, and it’s easy for unhelpful movement habits to creep in—sometimes without our noticing. The practice of Pilates helps us to become aware of these habits and reintroduces healthy movement patterns, which can improve our playing and overall well-being. We have equal ability to learn helpful movement habits as we do unhelpful ones and this is good news!

You can learn Pilates privately or in a group setting. I highly recommend taking a few private sessions with a Pilates teacher to first learn proper form management of your own body’s idiosyncrasies. (We all have them!) This will help make any classes or home practice that you do much richer and safer.

Just as each instrument has its own repertoire, Pilates has its own unique repertoire of exercises. These exercises can be done with mat alone, Pilates-specific apparatuses, or small props that can be easily attained for home practice.

I consider my practice of Pilates just as important as the time I spend practicing and listening to music. I look at it as part of a “balanced diet” that makes me a whole musician. Could it be a healthy part of your musical diet as well? Try it and see!

For more information about Pilates for musicians, visit www.evasternmoves.com.


Fiber Is Key: Diverticulosis Requires Diet and Lifestyle Management

Diverticulosis is a condition in which small bulging pouches form in the lining of the digestive tract, usually in the lower part of the large intestine or sigmoid colon. Occasionally, one or more of the pouches become inflamed or infected—in which case it becomes diverticulitis, indicating an infection. An acute attack can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and bowel irritability. Mild diverticulitis can be treated with rest, changes in diet, or antibiotics. Severe or recurring diverticulitis may require surgery. For musicians, whose careers revolve around tours, eating on the road, and sitting for long periods, diverticulosis requires vigilance.

In general, unless they have an attack, many people do not know they have diverticulosis. It is often detected incidentally, through routine colonoscopy. If this is the case, it’s important to know the symptoms of an episode, which include pain in your lower abdomen, tenderness, bloating, and cramps. If you have been diagnosed with diverticulosis, it’s advisable to enlist a gastroenterologist and see a dietitian for food recommendations.

An episode of diverticulitis may start out mild, but left untreated or unmanaged, it can escalate quickly. Subsequent episodes may become more severe. Fever is a clear indication of infection (diverticulitis), which can lead to more serious problems, such as peritonitis (caused by perforations in one or more diverticula); abscess in the abdomen; or obstruction (blockages of the intestine). 

During the active stage of the infection, physicians recommend eating a low-fiber diet and drinking plenty of water. Once the infection clears, and on the recommendation of your doctor, fiber should be back on the menu.

Uncomplicated Diverticulitis

See your doctor if you have any symptoms. If it’s a mild case, she or he is likely to recommend:

•   Antibiotics to treat infection, although new guidelines state that in very mild cases, they may not be needed.

•   A liquid diet for a few days while the bowel heals. Once symptoms improve, gradually add solid (though low-fiber) food to your diet.

•   An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen. This treatment is successful in most people with uncomplicated diverticulitis.

Management of Ongoing Diverticulosis

According to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), diverticulosis affects half of everyone over 60 years of age in the US, though it’s rare in people under 40. As a person ages, the pouches (diverticula) in the digestive tract become more prominent. In addition, it is uncommon in certain parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, where diets are high in fiber and rich in grains, fruits, and vegetables. For this reason, most health practitioners believe the condition is due, in part, to a diet low in fiber. A low-fiber diet leads to constipation, which increases pressure in the sigmoid colon. 


Vigorous exercise appears to help lower the risk of diverticulitis. A low-fiber diet, combined with a high intake of animal fat, will likely increase the risk. While it is recommended that we consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily, most people only get about half that amount.

Eating vegetables and whole grains is a starting point for managing diverticulosis. Drinking plenty of water helps the body capitalize on the fiber. Doctors often recommend supplemental fiber. There are plenty of on-the-go options as well. Fiber and protein bars can supplement for days on the road when you cannot work in proper meals or regular exercise.

General guidelines include minimal use of alcohol (which dehydrates), getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor. Desk jobs and sitting for too long are generally unhealthy: stand up every hour—move around, stretch, take a short walk. Try to fit in moderate-to-vigorous exercise during the day, like a brisk walk or a run.

Adopt a High-Fiber Diet

The best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains:

•   Beans, such as black beans, kidney beans

•   Brown and wild rice

•   Fruits, all kinds, fresh and dried, raw or cooked

•   Vegetables of all kinds, raw or cooked

•   Whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta


If you have received a diverticulosis diagnosis, your doctor may also recommend that you add the following to your daily diet:

Fiber supplements: to ensure adequate fiber intake and to prevent constipation

Probiotics: as a possible measure for preventing diverticulitis

Should you avoid nuts, popcorn, and seeds?

Historically, the advice for people with diverticulosis was to avoid nuts, popcorn, corn, seeds, and seeded fruits and vegetables for fear that seeds would become trapped in the diverticula, causing inflammation. This advice is no longer considered valid. In fact, these foods are a good source of fiber. Do your research and speak to your doctor about optimal fiber intake. Also, if you have been diagnosed with diverticulosis, consider talking with a dietitian about general food guidelines for management to prevent an attack of diverticulitis.

If you have symptoms of diverticulosis or diverticulitis, you should seek immediate treatment from your healthcare provider.

Musician’s Dystonia Symptoms and Treatment

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that occurs when the brain sends incorrect information to the muscles. It is characterized by failed or involuntary muscle contractions and movements. Focal dystonias affect specific parts of the body—neck, eyes, face, vocal cords, hands, and feet.

Scientists have not been able to determine an exact cause for focal dystonia. It seems to be related in some way to repetitive motions because it occurs most frequently in musicians who have intensely practiced their instruments over a number of years. It is often focused in the body part where the most complex movement patterns are performed. There is a genetic predisposition in only about 5% of cases.

Focal hand dystonia is strikingly more common in musicians than other groups of professionals that require intricate hand movements—dentists, surgeons, writers. According to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, 1%-2% of professional musicians are affected by dystonia, though many may be undiagnosed. At first, they may perceive symptoms as faulty technique or insufficient preparation. Dystonia may even be misdiagnosed as a psychological condition.

Instrumentalists with dystonia commonly exhibit symptoms in the following ways:

  • Pianists: right hand, 4th and 5th fingers
  • String players: left hand
  • Guitarists: either hand, 3rd finger of right hand
  • Percussionists: either hand
  • Woodwinds: either hand, face, mouth
  • Brass players: corners of mouth, jaw

By far, the two most common types of focal dystonia affecting musicians are embouchure dystonia and hand dystonia.

Focal Hand Dystonia

Focal hand dystonia typically manifests as loss of muscular control in highly practiced movements and can also be accompanied by tremors. Initial symptoms include subtle loss of control in difficult passages, lack of precision, involuntary curling or sticking of fingers, and involuntary flexion of the bowing thumb. The problem is almost always painless and task specific. For example, with doublers it may only occur on one particular instrument, but not the other. It may also be sensitive to sensory input with some pianists reporting symptoms only when playing on ivory keys (not plastic).

Embouchure Dystonia

This type of dystonia is most common in brass and woodwind players. It may affect muscles of the mouth, face, jaw, and tongue. Symptoms may be subtle at first—air leaks at the corners of the mouth and tremors (sometimes worse in higher registers) or involuntary and abnormal contractions of the face muscles.


There is currently no cure for dystonia, so the focus is on treatment. Sometimes anticholinergic drugs that affect the transmission of messages from the brain to the muscles can help. Botulinum toxin injections can compel the body to create new programs by blocking nerve impulses to contracting muscles. They work by temporarily weakening the muscles so the spasm is reduced and therefore are a better choice for hand dystonia than embouchure dystonia.

The ultimate goal of treatment is to establish new sensory motor programs to accomplish the tasks that have become challenging. Altering posture or key positions could help. Sensory tricks, like playing while wearing a latex glove or stimulation applied to affected areas, can lessen symptoms. Sensory re-education attempts to reverse the changes in the cortex that have caused the dystonia through repetitive exercises and/or visualization.

In sensory motor retuning (constraint induced movement therapy) nonaffected fingers are immobilized in a splint while performing repetitive coordination exercises. This may facilitate freer, more independent movement patterns from a dystonic finger.

Dystonia can be a symptom of other serious conditions. If you are experiencing uncontrolled muscle movement or contractions see your doctor as soon as possible. For more information on musician’s dystonia visit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (www.dystonia-foundation.org/musicians).


Biomechanics: How to Be In Sync with Your Instrument

An important yet often neglected component of performance is proper biomechanics. Technique, skill, and interpretation all contribute to a musician’s professional potential, but the physical toll of holding an instrument and playing it for hours puts a strain on the musculoskeletal system. What’s more, the stress can result in debilitative injury. According to Alexandra Türk-Espitalier, a flutist, physiotherapist, and researcher at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, it’s often when a musician reaches the point of physical discomfort that physical conditioning takes center stage.

In her book, Musicians in Motion: 100 Exercises with and Without Instrument, Türk-Espitalier compiled 100 exercises to correct misaligned playing posture and relieve playing-related pain and overuse syndrome. She has carefully designed a system of training and exercise, zeroing in on the source of the pain and addressing issues with exercise, strength training, and specific routines for different instruments.

Body Awareness, Breathing

According to Türk-Espitalier, who has worked with many orchestras and virtuoso solo performers in Europe, problems can be corrected, even for longtime professionals. Through an analysis of movement and posture with the instrument, a number of problems can be pinpointed: misalignment; muscle tone dysbalance; lack of flexibility, strength, and coordination; or faulty playing technique. She tailors specific relevant exercises for musicians to promote endurance, expression, and pain-free playing.
Instrumental technique correlates to body regions and awareness. Deep breathing and long airflow are directly related to the lower spine. Hip joints should be open and the torso stabilized with an upright pelvis. Big sound and fast articulation require a free neck, flexible eyes, free ears, and flexible lower jaw. For precise key touch you need light and long arms, wide chest and collarbone, and free and flexible shoulders.

Alignment and Exercise in Daily Life

Musicians are used to focusing on instrument-specific coordination, but practicing correct body alignment of joints and achieving muscle balance should extend to everyday activities. Türk-Espitalier notes that prevention should be designed according to strengths and weaknesses. To identify them, observe others and get feedback from professionals. To achieve a holistic outlook on your music with and without your instrument—and above all, to prevent injury—incorporate a training schedule that includes physical conditioning.

It’s a challenge, says Türk-Espitalier, for musicians to “dissolve” and replace old habits. “Faulty patterns have been practiced for many years and are, therefore, firmly embedded into movement, playing technique, and behavior. If basic movement patterns have to be relearned, I recommend a time when few concerts are scheduled.” Trying to resolve problems during a busy season can be difficult. She says, “Great care must be taken to ensure that a musician’s quality of playing is not diminished and the player does not become frustrated.”

Her book is comprehensive, from causes and bad habits to warmup, cool down, and breathing. There are solutions for almost every problem. Structured according to areas of the body and the associated physiological stress factors, the routines are easy to follow. For flutists and violinists, there are shoulder and arm exercises. Tension in the forearms, hands, and wrist can be reduced effectively with massage—the palm of the hand, the thenar, and the hypothenar. For instance, with cellists, massaging the thenar muscles of the right hand is recommended. The exercises are suitable for professional and recreational musicians alike.

Younger musicians are more tuned into instrument-specific fitness regimens. Türk-Espitalier says, “In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, music physiology is now even a mandatory subject at some music universities.” She explains that the younger generation of professional musicians is more familiar with the concept and uses the techniques to enhance their playing skills. She views musicphysiology as a critical component of performance—playing with ease and pain free in a competitive industry.

Türk-Espitalier has worked with individual members of most of the major orchestras in Germany and Austria (Vienna Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, WDR Orchestra Cologne, and more). She has conducted orchestra-wide workshops throughout Germany.

Alexandra Türk-Espitalier, PhD, is a flutist, physiotherapist, researcher in music physiology, and lecturer at the University of Music and Performing Arts Frankfurt and at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where she is program leader of a postgraduate certificate course in music physiology.

last year's words, and next year's voices

Last Year’s Words, and Next Year’s Voices: Essays and Speeches from a Decade as Chairman of ICSOM

last year's words, and next year's voices

Author Bruce Ridge, a member of Local 500 (Raleigh, NC) served as chair of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) from 2006 to 2016. During that time of economic upheaval and social change, when orchestras were besieged with lockouts and bankruptcies, many people questioned the symphony orchestra’s value to society.

To this environment, Ridge brought an eloquent, positive message, embracing connection through social media, highlighting the value of musicians to their community, and promoting the healing orchestral music can provide. These essays and speeches recount ICSOM’s expanded role under his leadership as an advocacy organization. He addresses topics both global and personal, from the role of arts education in society to the challenge of maintaining mental health in a stressful profession. This collection of writings serves as a remarkable journal of advocacy on behalf of our symphony orchestras.

Last Year’s Words, and Next Year’s Voices: Essays and Speeches from a Decade as Chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, by Bruce Ridge, www.lulu.com.