This article was published in the May 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
I have recently released a website titled www.playingwithoutpain.com, an interactive web-based resource designed to connect collegiate musicians with resources to prevent and treat performance-based musculoskeletal injuries.This website is based on my own personal struggle with performance-based pain for much of my career, the process of sharing my story with others, and hoping to benefit others who share similar experiences with the resources I have provided on my website. It was difficult for me to share my story at first, because there can be a stigma about showing weakness in a competitive field, it often can lead to fear that others will view you differently. However, after sharing my story, many of my peers and colleagues dealing with similar musculoskeletal injuries began to approach me and share their stories as well, asking me about ways they could treat and prevent their own injuries. While I was very nervous about opening up initially, it turned out to be an extremely positive experience that started a discussion within the community at the College of Musical Arts at BGSU, revealing that performance-based pain is a very common issue. It allowed this community to initiate changes and promoted awareness about these issues in order to better help students cope with and treat their injuries.
Sharing vulnerability is not only beneficial to others who may be dealing with similar issues, but can also be beneficial in helping you open up as a musician in order to completely immerse yourself emotionally in your music. There is often a stigma about perfectionism in this field that makes it difficult to express any forms of weakness in fear that you may be viewed as less talented, less motivated, or less able to succeed than your peers. However, there is great strength that can be found in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Sharing your struggles and weaknesses can actually help you to overcome them. By opening up with others, you can allow yourself to be receptive of their help and you can begin to seek out help yourself. Once I admitted to the pain I had been struggling with for years and finally booked an appointment with a doctor, I received a proper diagnosis and steps I could take to begin treatment. My pain was reduced significantly, and I started to learn how to play my flute while maintaining a healthier posture and how to take better care of my injuries. Whether you are struggling with physical pain, your mental health and emotional well-being, it is important to be vocal about these struggles with your loved ones, close friends and mentors. Vocalizing your vulnerability can allow you to access the help you need in order to improve your mental and physical health and continue to pursue a successful career in music.
By: Francesca Leo