Musician, heal thyself

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"Look at sports: Every aspect of what an athlete does has been analyzed, and we know how what they do affects their back, their ankles, or their wrists. Or their attitudes. And we know how to address those things. That's what makes this so important, and that's why, over the last two years, there's really been an intense effort in developing a similar vision for musicians."

Chesky notes that in the past, work like Hipple's has gone on outside of UNT's College of Music (Hipple technically works for UNT's Counseling and Testing Center). "What if we looked at musicians before they got hurt, and before they had problems?" he asks, echoing Hipple's sentiments. "What if we were to understand the transitions that led to having problems and the variables that affect them--aren't we in the perfect place to do that at UNT?

"We're pooling our resources," Chesky adds, describing the work that he says is right on the edge of being given an official, institutional, fundable (through a mixture of public and private donations) existence. It's work that will combine not only the efforts of UNT's Health Science Center in Fort Worth and the College of Music, but also those of the University's Department of Speech and Hearing Science as well as the work of other experts like Dr. George Kondraske, professor of electrical and biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, whose work centers on the physical aspects of playing. Drs. Cohen and Shrader--pioneers in this entire area--have agreed to make themselves available as advisors and consultants.

Chesky says he looks forward to a day when a musician "can talk to a doctor and say, 'Wow, you're doing a study on pulmonary capacity? I'm a trumpet player--I want to hear this,'" building "a general awareness of the ways in which science can actually impact not only how we think about health and health problems, but how a musician actually plays."

"Right now we're reaching out, but to people who have already been affected," Hipple concurs. "The next step is to get to them before they have problems."

Perhaps the day will arrive when musicians will enjoy the same resources and options as someone working in a factory or office and not have to rely on their fans' perception of them for reward or rescue. Although this might seem to be the first step toward the Wal-Mart-ification of music, within "the Man"'s methods are the seeds of a more subtle revolution, possibilities for independence that Brave Combo has already seen and to which John McCrea--in his recent article on musicians and audience expectation for the (unrelated) music magazine Cake--referred to when he wrote, "If...musicians weren't so willing to provide faux-rebellion, leather-jacket tattoo rebellion, then perhaps there could be more actual rebellion."

And more actual music.

The internet address for the UNT musician survey is http://www.scs.unt.edu/surveys/msurvey/index.html.

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Matt Weitz