Health Promotions in Schools of Music

2004 Conference | Sponsors | University of North Texas | Performing Arts Medical Association

Music Education Liaison

Hearing Health

Vocal Health
PreConference Report 1
Preconference Report 2
Postconference Report


Mental Health
Teacher Stresses


VOCAL HEALTH REPORT - Pre-Conference Report -
Part 1

Initial Observations:
Current practices and concerns regarding vocal health and music education

  1. Musician health is a topic of much interest and concern.  Committee members strongly believe that most music educators have encountered voice health issues in their own voices or in those of their students.  During their undergraduate and/or graduate education, however, voice health and protection was not addressed at all, or the information provided was minimal and may have been general instead of specific to professional needs.  Musician health is not a topic to consider only when entering the performing or music educator professions, but is critical at all stages of musical development—childhood to geriatric, amateur or professional.
  2. While the topic of musician health is of vital importance, there is not a clear undergraduate and graduate curriculum which has been defined for this area of learning.  There are excellent resources available from a variety of sources, but there are not standard courses to address the topics such as those within musicology (theory, aural skills, history, composition, etc.) applied music (standard repertoire or best practices for lessons) ensemble/performance (large, chamber, standard repertoire, adjudication categories), etc.  Music education has standard courses for methods, history and philosophy, field experiences, and student teaching. The appropriate inclusion of “health" areas has not been as clearly addressed by accreditation organizations such as NASM, MENC, and State Standards committees.  Developing "best practices" and "recommendations" may be helpful in this regard; nevertheless, there may be considerable debate regarding whether developing another area of accreditation or regulation is in the best interest of the profession.
  3. Correspondence within the voice subpanel indicates that currently there are no national education standards requiring vocal health and pedagogy instruction to be included in the curricula of undergraduate or graduate students in music performance or education, even though voice is often the primary instrument involved.  In those settings where curricula have been developed, the course(s) appear to be a survey of current voice teaching methods, and no course on vocal anatomy, physiology, acoustics, common disorders and hygiene is included. In addition, choral conducting methods courses, typically, do not include experiences that are related to the effects of conductor gestures, verbal and nonverbal communication, and the spacing of singers on the relative efficiency and inefficiency of voice use in singers.  Due to these curricular shortcomings, a large percentage of vocal music educators and choral conductors are under-informed or misinformed with regards to the basics of vocal anatomy, development and physiology. Most importantly, these educators/conductors are also often unaware of the important role they play in the vocal health of the people under their direction.  As a result, incomplete or inaccurate information about vocal function and health may be perpetuated from generation to generation within the field of music education.
  4. Universities and conservatories that have close associations to medical schools may have a distinct advantage in obtaining information on musician health.  There remains a need for interdisciplinary teaching and research, however, and anecdotal evidence reveals that such teaching, research, and practice in the field may not be financially supported in times of economic constraint.   A topic for discussion may be to ascertain whether school districts are likely to fund programs for musician health in a time of academic accountability pressure. For example, when arts programs are in danger of being cut, will teachers be willing to ask for inservice on their own health? The path to assisting musical professionals in the area of vocal health may be personal knowledge and empowerment through best practices at a personal level for each musician when institutions are not likely to provide change.  The alternative of litigation and exploration of workman’s compensation issues must be considered, but may not provide the best initial focus for the activities of this advocacy group.