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Health and Safety Information

Musicians are athletes, and just like athletes, it is important that they treat their minds and bodies with the utmost care and respect.  Whether during enrollment at Bemidji State University or beyond, it is important that all who study here consider the importance of their health and safety in all they do.  Just like athletes, musicians need to physically function at a very high level.  Misuse of the body that leads to injury can get in the way of this.  While some injuries seem minor to most athletes, they can be debilitating to the musician who needs full function of their body to perform or learn correctly.  These injuries can come from a variety of activities and are not always obvious.  While it is easy to illustrate some activities that have a high risk of injury (rock climbing/bullfighting), it is less obvious and more often that repetitive actions lead to serious injury over time for musicians.  These may include:

  • Shoveling snow
  • Carry heavy loads (Backpacks, etc.)
  • Over-practicing and cramming before juries/recitals
  • Playing frisbee, etc. -recreational sports
  • Rehearsing long hours with no rest or warm-up/cool-down
  • Poor playing/singing posture or technique

It is important to take care in all you do, so that you are healthy and safe to progress towards all goals as a musician.  Some activities that may help in your routine include:

  • Alexander Technique Training (posture)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Frequent breaks and adequate warm-up/cool-down routines
  • Safe rehearsal practices

While you are in rehearsal, class, or private practice, you should always use safe and healthy guidelines to protect yourself.  Be aware of posture and pay attention to the signs of strain on any part of your body.  If you have concerns, bring them up to your ensemble director, rehearsal leader, etc. so that they may be addressed.  Your concerns may affect everyone else, so don’t be afraid of bringing them up. 

For further help, the Sanford Clinic in Bemidji has excellent physicians available in most specialties that can address your needs.  Call 218-333-5000 to request more information or to set up an appointment.

For mental health needs, there are a wide variety of services available in the area.  Click HERE for a list of various services and contact information.

In addition to a healthy body and mind, singers must keep their vocal health in mind at all times.  You are encouraged to remember the following vocal health guidelines:

  • Stay hydrated.  You should drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily and avoid soda, alcohol, and caffeine, as these can actually dehydrate you.
  • Get proper nutrition and eat a balanced diet.
  • Get proper sleep and adequate rest periods when needed.
  • Wash your hands!  A sick singer usually can’t sing.

Singers must always remember their warm-ups.  Together with your teacher, find a system that works for you and make sure you warm-up.  You wouldn’t run a race without stretching, so don’t expect your vocal chords to do the same.  Without adequate time and flexibility, you can irreversibly damage your delicate instrument.  Work towards meeting the demands you have for your singing.

Even after warming up, abuse can lead to bad results or worse, vocal damage.  Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Smoking is hazardous to your health-especially your vocal chords!
  • Try and keep your home air clean and humidified.  Dryness does add up.
  • Be aware certain medications affect your throat and mouth-particularly cold medicines with decongestant and ibuprofen.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a break-you don’t have to sing full out in every rehearsal.  Learn to “mark.”
  • The sports teams will do just fine without your expert vocal abilities adding to the screaming at every game.  Avoid yelling at all costs.
  • Talk less.  This is the hardest one to do in college.  Be an active participant in all you do and a good colleague and friend to your fellow students…just remember to take it easy once and awhile.  All that talking adds up.  Be healthy with your voice ALL the time.

Of special concern to musicians is hearing health.  The human ear is sensitive and delicate and musicians are at high risk for many hearing-related injuries.  Please read the following information, provided by the National Association of Schools of Music for more information 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 loud sound, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing mechanisms.

Sounds over 85 dB (your typical vacuum cleaner) in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing.

Risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound or loudness intensity and duration.

Recommended maximum daily exposure times (NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are as follows:

  • 85 dB (vacuum cleaner, MP3 player at 1/3 volume) – 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, sound 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 those MP3 earbuds. See chart above.

The use of earplugs and earmuffs helps to protect your hearing health.

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 own hearing health on a daily, even hourly basis.

It is important to follow basic hearing health guidelines.

It is also important to study this issue and learn more.

If you are concerned about your personal hearing health, talk with a medical professional.

If you are concerned about your hearing health in relationship to your program of study, consult the appropriate contact person at your institution.

This information is provided by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). For more information, check out the other NASM-PAMA hearing health documents, located on the NASM Web site at the URL linked below.

For a printed version of this document, click HERE or check with the Music Office in Bangsberg 201.