Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes

Teaching and performing music stem from a similar background as coaching and athletics.  The best teachers are coaches and the best coaches are teachers. The goal for a coach or a teacher is to unlock potential.  Hard work, practice, desire to improve, self-discipline, willingness to learn from feedback, patience, and willingness to learn from setbacks are a few commonalities musicians and athletes share. The responsibility of teaching and performing music should extend beyond skill development to a  holistic/wellness perspective.  Associations, organizations, authors, broadcasters, and others all agree that musicians and athletes are much the same.

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) has partnered with Athletes and the Arts, “to better understand health, physical performance, and physical activity needs uniqueto performing artists”.  The MTNA journal American Music Teacher provides an annotated bibliography of wellness resources for musicians and teachers.  The full document of annotations is in the Resources section titled AMT Wellness.  Of particular interest would be a series of sources titled “Playing Healthy, Staying Healthy” located at the end of the document (pp.14-19). Randall Dick from Athletes and the Arts and John Snyder from Artists House Foundation presented a webinar, Athletes and the Arts: What Musicians Can Learn From Athletes, sponsored by the College Music Society.  This 40 minute webinar is available in the Resources section. 

Perform: NFL Coach Trains with Concert Pianist…a Journey of Athletes, Musicians, Coaches and Teachers (2011) published by NFL coach Paul Alexander is “dedicated to aspiring athletes, musicians, speakers, coaches, teachers, parents and their admirers”. Mr. Alexander states on his website that Perform is a book for “anyone interested in developing elite human performance”. There are 3 videos (less that 15 minutes total) embedded in the website that are well worth your time to view.  The perspectives shared are from the point of view as an athlete and a musician.

The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance (2013) by Lesley Sisterhen McAllister utilizes research from athletics and music to outline techniques for success.  Anyone with an athletic or a musical background will see the similarities just from reading the 1stparagraph of the introduction.

Preview the book

The task of making great music requires the integration and development of both the mind and the body working together, with the body perceiving and adjusting to what is made real to it by the mind. Neither of these two elements is more important than the other, and they must be trained to work together in a balanced and holistic way. Among other things, the mind allows us toanalyze the structure and harmony of music and understand its style and character; of course, it also allows us to learn and memorize it. The body formsthe framework by which we can put what is in our minds into physical reality. It is only through the assimilation of these two areas that we can reach our greatest potential as performers of music.Our technique must be trained through practice so we can attain the highest level of kinesthetic ability, but ultimately it functions as the means to an end rather than an end in itself. Great artists evoke the meaning and depth in every piece in their repertoire through coordination and integration, finding new ways to illuminate and capture the essence of each work with every performance.

ESPN sports anchor and host Lindsay Czarniak podcast Players with Lindsay Czarniak began airing October 2018.  

Listen to her brief introduction to the concept of her podcast.

“In an intimate one-on-one setting, Lindsay Czarniak invites her guests, who also happen to be the biggest “players” in country music, to reflect on perhaps the only thing as important to them as music…sports! Join Lindsay as she leads her guests in conversation about the significance of sports in their lives and how that has impacted their personal journey, revealing more about the passions, motivations, and inspirations behind these artists”.

Reviewing the above sources, and others, we can find some commonalities that tie in with Blooms to Blossoms purpose.

Music & Sport
Social & IntegrativeTeamwork include aspirations of sharing common goals with      others, performing well in front of others, and for friendship and socialization with people of like interests. 
Self-EsteemExperience positive feelings about self, provides achievable goals—musical or athletic—that also contributed to feelings of personal satisfaction and well-being. 

Kinesthetic AwarenessSatisfy the need for physical movement or contact, and the development or refinement of physical and technical skills. It appears that both student musicians and student athletes appear to value and need the physical aspects of their chosen activity. 

Self-EfficacyMusicians and athletes share in the notion that they are talented and possess the necessary skills to succeed in music and in sports. The analyses of these statements indicate a preference for one’s own personal proficiency and ability to help oneself during any activity.

Health and wellness of musicians is becoming a salient topic. The recognition that performers are athletes creates opportunities to draw from the research ideas for training and education that extend beyond music making.  Not only could the performance level and ability improve but overall health of a musician improves.  Ideas explored translate to professional musicians, and those involved in recreational music making.

I have shared a variety of sources this week.  I hope you find some items of interest to you.  Crossing boundaries of music and sports touches many lives.  I encourage you to share this blog and these sources with others.

Music Matters: Master-Class

A couple of years ago through my work with a local nonprofit we hosted a master-class program (individual lessons with an expert in a group setting) for guitar students.  The mission of this nonprofit included performance, education, and wellness.  During the planning and preparation for the master-class program we considered the idea of how this program addresses the mission. Of particular interest was the connection between the impact of performance on education and wellness.  

Wagner (2005) supports the idea that a master-class offers a great learning opportunity for the students by stating that a “fresh perspective from a professional musician offers a priceless commodity and an unforgettable experience for students” (pg. 42).  

Music is a more potent instrument than any other form of education. Plato

Artists and audience can benefit from concentrated public coaching. A master-class program provides a guided view of learning and appreciating music.  We can learn a lot from a master class – how to practice, how to play, how to perform, how to listen, and how to make sense of a piece of music (Haddon, 2014, 2017; Hanken 2010, 2015; Long 2012). One master interviewed by Hanken (2010) when asked about accommodating students and listeners stated, “It is a master class when the teaching benefits the audience about as much as it does the student performing” (pg. 151).

Music is the art of thinking with sounds. Jules Combarieu

To provide a structure for evaluating the student experience of the master-class program the planning group identified a set of program goals aligned with wellness components.  

Spiritual Wellness:  Finding meaning in life events…a master-class can share and expand the knowledge base of students and audience about the internal meaning of the music beyond the notes.  Music playing and listening can establish peace and harmony in your life.   

Enjoyment of Music

Social Wellness:  Building relationships (teacher to student, student to student, teacher to audience, student to audience) enhances the interactive nature of a master-class.  

Sharing Thoughts/Idea with Peers & with Others, Ability to Collaborate with Others

Emotional Wellness:  Performing in a master-class can provide opportunities for performance in a more controlled setting and with a smaller group of similar minded peers which can lead to increased performance confidence.  

Self Esteem, Future Perspective of Self, Self-Worth, Confidence

Intellectual Wellness:  Engaging in a master-class allows students and audience an opportunity to focus on the learning about music, engaging in new ideas on style and structure of playing and interpretation of music from the group and individual perspective.   

Creativity, Decision-Making

Physical Wellness:  Observational feedback provided by the teacher, peers, and even audience members aids awareness of practice and performing techniques.  

Skill Development

Students provided feedback through the use of a retrospective pre-post method.  Lang & Savageau (2017) give a brief description of the method.

Instead of collecting data at the beginning and end of the program, the retrospective pre-post approach measures students’ learning only at the end by asking them to self-assess what they know from two viewpoints – BEFORE and AFTER participating. The responses can be compared to show changes in knowledge/skills.  

Below is a portion of the instrument developed.  It is possible to change the structure for your own use.  For example, to:

**evaluate a program you are developing
**provide insight and reflection on your own learning as a music student
**expand the learning of your students
**provide direction for your teaching

I wanted to share my experience from working with the nonprofit master-class program to introduce the idea of how our daily activities and hobbies can overlap with personal development and wellness.  Music can be more than playing an instrument.  We learn lessons through the experience of learning, playing, and listening to others.  

Think about hobbies or activities you take part in…how might this experience contribute to your learning and development.

Next week I will explore the idea that athletes and musicians are similar. 

A Virtual Community Evolves as Members Develop Affective Bonds

Following the path, we can share to create an engaged neighborhood.

Blooms and Blossoms evolved from a wish to connect with others in a format that allows for extended/ongoing communication and drop-in/informal interaction.  Reviewing the prior literature on community building in an online environment guided the blog structure.  Those researching the psychological sense of community agree that McMillan & Chavis (1986) model is the most influential. The model serves as a starting point for creating place-based and virtual neighborhoods. 

“A feeling that members have a belonging, a feeling that members matter to on another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (p. 9).

Jones (1997) describes a virtual settlement exists when a posting framework exist and membership is growing. A virtual community evolves as members develop affective bonds.  After reading Jones distinction I knew it was important to me to create a sense of belonging in our online neighborhood. 

Spreading the word to others can be beneficial to our community development.

McMillan and Chavis name four elements important to achieve a sense of community.

  • Membership
  • Influence
  • Integration & Fulfillment of Needs
  • Shared emotional connection

The following example illustrates the dynamics within and between these four elements.

“Someone puts an announcement on the dormitory bulletin board about the formation of an intramural dormitory basketball team. People attend the organizational meeting as strangers out of their individual needs (integration and fulfillment of needs). The team is bound by place of residence (membership boundaries are set)and spends time together in practice (the contact hypothesis). They play a game and win (successful shared event). While playing, members exert energy on behalf of the team (personal investment in the group). As the team continues to win, team members become recognized and congratulated (gaining honor and status for being members). Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence)” (p. 16).

Continued reading on the ideas presented by Jones and McMillan & Chavis led me Blanchard’s (2004) works on community building in a virtual environment.  A couple key articles were:

The Experienced “Sense” of a Virtual Community: Characteristics and Processes

“… there’s more to it than that. Building a virtual meeting place may produce a virtual settlement. But a virtual community is a virtual settlement in which a sense of virtual community coexists with a set of community-like behaviors and processes” (p. 77).

Blogs as Virtual Communities

“Blogs have the potential to evolve into socially beneficial, self-sustaining virtual communities. Future studies of blogs as virtual communities should continue to assess not only members’ sense of community but also how members adapt to and modify the technology to meet their needs in developing a vibrant virtual community” (p. 9). 

I continued my research to further understand how experience in an established community contributes to enhancement of life.  Lambert et al, (2013) article Sense of belonging enhances meaning in life published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin supports the idea of a sense of belonging.  

“Belonging can also contribute to a meaningful life, since being a part of a group connotes being a part of something larger, something that expands beyond the boundaries of our own self, thus promoting a sense of lastingness and continuity” (p. 6).

The literature over the past 30 years support the McMillan and Chavis model for creating a sense of belonging thus supporting Jones distinction of settlement vs community. This review of literature creates the foundation for the Blooms to Blossoms neighborhood.

Recently, Huffington Post contributors, Spero (2015) and Chan (2017) outlined key factors when establishing a community of ‘like-minded thinkers’. I expect membership in our group to grow from those who share similar opinions, ideas, and interests. It is my hope that we also debate, discuss, and challenge each other to promote lifelong learning and personal development.  

If we build it…others will come.

Below is a summary of the relationship of McMillan and Chavis’s, Spero’s, and Chan’s perspective on community building to Blooms to Blossoms.  I cannot prescribe or direct how each of you apply the concepts presented. I can recommend that you think about what you gain from and how you contribute to current affiliations, place-based or virtual.  Then go the next step…what can you do to contribute to Blooms to Blossoms community.


Affiliation with and acceptance by others provides a sense of belonging. A community will result from a group who extends interaction beyond the acquaintance level. We each differ in what “belonging” means.  Our virtual community, as with any community, will have various levels of engagement.  The community will thrive as members gain acceptance and support each other as individuals and as a group.

I’m excited about the future of Blooms to Blossoms and the opportunity we have to work and live together so our community will thrive.

Together Our Settlement Can Become a Community

Jones (1997) was one of the first to distinguish the qualities of an online “gathering”.  He outlined differences between a virtual settlement and a virtual community. A virtual settlement exists when a posting framework and membership exists and is growing. A virtual community evolves as members develop affective bonds. 

Blooms to Blossoms, a virtual meeting place, aligns as a settlement. Our settlement is a community under construction.  

We live life as a consumer, learner, developing human, perceiver, teacher, inhabitant, and participant.  The knowledge, experiences, thoughts, and ideas our group can offer each other serve as the foundation to building our community.  I concluded the About section of my blog stating the goal is to create a community of scholars, practitioners, and pupils. 

We can apply these various lenses of our life in the story Finding the Value in What People Have to Say, from Halcomb’s Epistemological Parables, in Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. The entire story is in Resources section.

While I take this story from a research textbook I find it connects with my intent to create a sense of belonging with the Blooms to Blossoms residents. The story concludes by stating:

“For the person who is willing to ask and listen the world will always be new. The skilled questioner and attentive listener knows how to enter into another’s experience.”

As technology expands how we live and learn research on place-based neighborhoods and communities has addressed the similarities and differences to the development of virtual communities.  Blanchard & Markus (2004) explore characteristics and processes of virtual communities.  The key components of a sense of virtual community are similar to the McMillan and Chavis (1986) model.

  • Feelings of membership
  • Feelings of influence
  • Integration and fulfillment of needs
  • Sharing emotional connection

Can blogs be a virtual community?  It is my contention, and hope, that the answer is yes.  Level of engagement in a blog mirrors level of engagement in place-based neighborhoods.  

  • There are leaders/core group/facilitators who are active.
  • There are participants who engage regularly with the leader group and other participants.
  • There are lurkers who primarily read only.

Inclusion of all 3 groups is important to building a community.  Each is giving and gaining a sense of belonging through their level of engagement.  Many may believe that the lurkers are not contributing to the community.  I am not in this group.  Consider aspects of your life where you are more engaged than others.  While level of engagement is a key factor for personal development, it is not the only factor.  Think about the Halcomb story and Blooms to Blossoms purpose…listening/reading is engagement/Blooms to Blossoms strives to build a community (online and beyond) who integrate wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.  The key is under the mat and the door is open to all.

Our community will thrive by embracing all members. Examples of how we can reach all 3 groups include:

  • Those who become the core group will broaden the scope of my work.
  • Those who take part and engage regularly will provide another level of perspective and dimension to the content shared.  
  • Those who lurk will enhance personal development.

I hope you can see the path we can share to create an engaged neighborhood.  I welcome and appreciate your contributions to help guide our personal and group learning. Spreading the word to others can be beneficial to our community development.

Next week I will expand on current application and perspectives of the McMillan and Chavis model.  In addition, thoughts about how membership of a community contributes to wellness. 

What can you do?

Share your thoughts on the Halcomb article

Review the 7 Dimensions of Wellness in the Resources section and think about your current affiliation in other online or place-based communities…how does this affiliation contribute or enhance these dimensions.