/ Music Department

Policy on Musician Wellness

Read our medical disclaimer


Maintaining good hearing health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician. It’s important to know that your hearing can be permanently damaged by loud sounds.[2] You can be exposed to loud sounds during rehearsals and performances, and while listening to live and/or recorded music, especially through earbuds or headphones.

Sounds over 85 dB in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing. The risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound or loudness intensity and duration. So it’s imperative to avoid overexposure to loud sounds, especially for long periods of time.[3] 

But the good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is generally preventable!

  1. Use special earplugs. You can get these from an audiologist. These may be worn during rehearsals and performance.
  2. Be cognizant of sound exposure at all times — both in and out of school — and plan ahead for caring for your hearing health on a daily basis.
  3. If you’re concerned about your hearing health and think you have already experience hearing loss, make an appointment right away with an audiologist or medical professional.[4]


Like good hearing health, good physical health and wellness are important for all musicians. Instrumental musicians are especially at high risk for various kinds of physical injury because of repetitive motions. Here is a list of common musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Tendinosis
  • Bursitis
  • Trigger finger/thumb

Musculoskeletal stress and fatigue can also cause teeth clenching, upper and/or lower back pain, neck pain, as well muscle, fascia, bones, tendons, joints, ligaments and nerve problems. Risk factors for musculoskeletal injury include:

  • Environmental aspects (temperature, confined space, equipment)
  • Physical demands (awkward posture, forceful exertion, repetition, long-duration activities, contact stress with sharp edges)
  • Age, gender, physical fitness, nutrition, posture, use of addictive substances, psychological stress, and other diseases or health conditions

You can help to maintain your musculoskeletal health and prevent injury by consistently doing the following:

  1. Avoid practicing when you’re tired.
  2. Stretch and warm up before every rehearsal or performance.
  3. Monitor your technique for force and tension.
  4. Keep your mind calm, clear and focused.
  5. Use large muscle groups whenever possible.
  6. Avoid fixed or “locked” positions and postures.
  7. Take frequent breaks to stretch and relax. (Take a short break every 10–15 minutes, and a longer break every hour.)
  8. Avoid ‘marathon’ single sessions. (Two or more shorter daily rehearsals are more productive than marathon single sessions.)
  9. Take every opportunity — even in performances — to relax a hand or arm, and to take a deep breath.
  10. Remember: The “No pain, no gain!” philosophy is catastrophic.
  11. Develop a habit of body awareness, and pay attention when your body sends you information via its pain receptors. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to performances (or performing duration) that you or your teacher believe might result in injury.
  12. Stop immediately when you experience discomfort or pain. (Playing through pain will almost certainly damage, and delay the healing process.)[5]


Good vocal health is important to all musicians, not only to voice majors. We all use our voices for speaking, singing and rehearsing in lessons, ensembles and in sight-singing classes. Protecting your voice is integral for the longevity of your career. Here are some suggestions:[6]

  1. Drink plenty of water on a regular basis throughout the day. (How much? Drink half of your body weight in ounces each day).
  2. Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Be aware that some medications, such as allergy pills, may dry out your vocal tissues. Read side effects of your medications and talk to your doctor if you have worries or questions.
  5. Avoid dry air environments. Consider using a humidifier.
  6. Avoid yelling or raising your voice unnecessarily.
  7. Avoid throat clearing and loud coughing.
  8. Rest your voice, especially if you are sick. Your voice and your body need time to recover.
  9. Sufficient warm-up of your voice is important. Begin mid-range, and then slowly work outward to vocal pitch extremes.
  10. Proper musculoskeletal alignment, adequate breath “support” and correct physical technique are essential.
  11. Take regular breaks during practice sessions and rehearsals.
  12. Avoid sudden increases in practice times. Build up your vocal endurance slowly through a sensible daily practice routine.


To be able to perform to your best ability, you must attend to your overall physical and emotional well-being. The following lifestyle choices will help you be at “the top of your game!”:

  1. Get 7.5–9 hours of sleep each night to minimize fatigue.
  2. Move! Find a physical activity that you enjoy — walking, running, swimming, etc. — do it three or more times per week.
  3. Eat a diet that includes mostly vegetables, some protein, and a little fruit and whole grains. Balanced nutrition is essential if you want to function at your best.
  4. Avoid or limit added sugar, processed foods, caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
  5. Maintain body hydration. Drink half of your body weight in ounces each day.
  6. Refrain from hazardous or recreational drug use.
  7. Nourish your relationships with your friends and family.
  8. Learn mindfulness or stress management techniques (prayer, meditation, breathing techniques), and set aside some “quiet time” each day.

The following blogs and books contain useful information on the psychological side of music; and tips on how to deal with performance anxiety:[8]

  • The Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein (Oxford University Press, 2009). Written in an accessible, conversational style, the book also features excellent sections on how to practice, overall health and avoiding injuries.
  • The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green (Pan, Reprints Edition, 2003). This is a book designed to help musicians overcome obstacles, help improve concentration and reduce nervousness, allowing them to reach new levels of performing excellence and musical artistry.
  • Audition Success by Don Greene (Routledge Eiditon, 2001). Greene chronicles the story of two musicians as they learn to prepare for important auditions. This book gives musicians a concrete set of skills to achieve the concentrated focus needed to be successful in this type of high-pressure performance situation.
  • Bulletproof Musician blog
  • The Musicians Way Blog
  • Fearless Performance blog (Jeff Nelsen)
  • Coping with Stress and Anxiety
  • UW-Eau Claire - Coping with Music Performance Anxiety


  1. Disclaimer: The information we provide here isn’t a substitute for professional, medical judgments or advice. You should not use it as a basis for medical treatment. If you are concerned about your hearing or health, you should consult a licensed medical professional.
  2. Read general information from the Safety Research Corporation of American: Noise and Hearing Protection Fact Sheet.
  3. Recommended maximum daily exposure times (NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are as follows:
    • 85 dB (vacuum cleaner, MP3 player at 1/3 volume): 8 hours
    • 94 dB (MP3 player at ½ volume): 1 hour
    • 100dB (MP3 player at full volume): 15 minutes
    • 110 dB (rock concert, power tools): 2 minutes
  4. Holland Doctors of Audiology
    399 E 32nd St.
    Holland, Michigan 49423
    Email: info@holaud.com
  5. If you’re experiencing physical problems, contact the Student Health Center, located in the Dow Center
  6. For more information, see: Protecting Your Vocal Health (NASM-PAMA) and Duke Voice Care Center
  7. If you’re experiencing physical problems, contact the Student Health Center, located in the Dow Center
  8. If you’re experiencing emotional problems, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) located in the Bultman Student Center