Creating a new identity in the performing arts

March 19, 2012

The title of this post is my vision statement. My 5 year goal is to create a new identity for myself as a physical therapist, Andover Educator, flutist, teacher and writer. How did I get on this path and how do I plan to do it all?

Musicians are quite accustomed to wearing many hats. In addition to just loving music and wanting to engage with it for a living, I’m also attracted to how my routine isn’t so routine. I can be doing any number of different things in a normal day, and I love that. It keeps things fresh.

So maybe you’re saying, “OK. I get that you’re a flutist, teacher and writer but what’s an Andover Educator and how is physical therapy related?”

In June 2011, I attended the Andover Educators’ biennial conference in Montclair, NJ. This was a life changing experience. For what seemed like the first time ever, I was surrounded by people who were just as generous in spirit as I strive to be. The days were full of wonderful conversations and giving. We all had so much to share with one another and this sharing was never done in an obnoxious way, but in a supportive, giving, caring way. The focus of the conference was about music, and that deep connection to music through healthy movement hooked me.

Andover Educators is the organization that licenses teachers to teach the Body Mapping course, What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body. The course, created by AE founder Barbara Conable, is to put music education on a secure somatic foundation and give musicians the information they need to make safe, informed choices about how they move. This knowledge has helped musicians all over the world begin playing pain free and with much less effort and therefore allowing the music to just speak without interference. I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of by the end of the conference. In the latter part of 2011, I was approved to become a trainee and I am now working towards licensing.

At the conference, I met Ruth Lekander, an occupational therapist and Andover Educator who specializes in hand therapy. Not being very familiar with any type of physical therapy, I spent a lot of time talking with her and learning about why she chose the field. Flutist Susan Fain, who was working on her DMA when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma, has subsequently returned to the physical therapy field (and making waves in the flute world) since I left Oklahoma. I credit both these ladies for getting me thinking in a new way.

The final event that put me on the PT path was a recurrence of tendinitis in my right arm. I developed this condition in college and at the time, the doctor simply prescribed me ibuprofen and sent me on my way. Eventually the pain went away, but I didn’t really change how I was playing. Having resumed serious study of Body Mapping and interacting with these two ladies, I visited the doctor for the recurrence and requested a referral to a physical therapist.

I began researching physical therapy prior to my appointment and I got inspired. The more I researched, the more I decided this was for me. One of my primary missions as a flutist is to help people and improve their lives. Entering the physical therapy field simply expands this mission so that I can touch and improve even more people’s lives.

My goal is to eventually be able to divide my time between physical therapy, Body Mapping, performing and teaching. The next five years or so will be interesting to see how they unfold and whether I can keep it all together like I want to.

More of us musicians need to take an active interest in not only our health but the health of our colleagues, and not be afraid to pursue options that are based in the scientific and medical communities. Musicians need access to this information in order to sustain long playing and teaching careers. Just like rural areas need doctors and dentists, the performing arts community needs specialists that can help us (and we need more of them!).

My new identity in the performing arts won’t be separated between “jobs,” but everything I do will remain central to my identity as a musician. This is my contribution and I’ve never been so inspired.

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