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Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes



By Elaine Guerrazzi | June 24, 2019

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.

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2 thoughts on “Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes

  1. In your June 24 blog you listed several goals for teachers and coaches. I’d like to add Motivate to that list.
    Also, I realize your target audience is 18 and over, but I often wonder what consideration goes into being labeled a good coach/teacher.
    As someone who coached youth. (14 and under) for 15 years I tried to guage my success on how many of my young players returned the following year.
    Just a couple of thoughts that popped into my head while reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for the comment Jim.

      Motivation is a good addition and a factor that differs for each player…different behaviors and approaches work to motivate your players…you understand the differences in your athletes.

      For sure one way to determine success would be the satisfaction shown by the players (and probably parents…for your age group) based on those who return.

      Good coaches are good life teachers…I bet you do a lot more for you participants that goes beyond “teaching” a sport…such as believing in themselves, confidence, self esteem, etc. etc.

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