Arts

The Musicians’ Wellness Centre operates under the Piano Pedagogy Lab. Photo: Ryan Pepper/Fulcrum

Wellness Centre offers courses, workshops, research, and clinical care for musicians

Music and science have long been interconnected, but this year the two disciplines come a little closer together with the creation of the School of Music’s Musicians’ Wellness Centre, an interdisciplinary centre that studies and provides treatment for health issues specific to musicians.

Gilles Comeau heads the Piano Pedagogy Lab in the School of Music and is now the Director of the new Musicians’ Wellness Centre. However, the centre was first proposed by two U of O master’s students, Dapne Mercado and Nicole Stanson. Mercado is studying physiotherapy and Stanson developed an interest in performance anxiety during her master’s in trumpet performance.

Comeau stressed that what makes the U of O’s centre unique is its three-pronged approach to helping musicians. The centre has three pillars: education, research, and clinical care.

For over 15 years, said Comeau, the Piano Pedagogy Lab has conducted research on issues related to musicians’ wellness and the dedicated centre is a natural extension of that.

The educational pillar is a large part of the centre. The school now offers a master’s program in musicians’ wellness, and in the winter semester, the centre will offer for-credit courses in performance anxiety and restorative yoga. There’s also a list of activities and workshops offered, ranging from free auditory screening sessions to group classes in mindfulness or somatic training.

“We provide a master’s program in wellness, credited courses, workshops, masterclasses with physiotherapists and chiropractors — there’s a whole series of courses available for students and musicians in the community,” said Comeau. “Students can benefit from the centre and come for assessment, they can register for accredited courses, and we also have a practicum for students interested in the administrative and development aspect of a centre like this.”

In addition to offering workshops and courses, the centre also does research on a variety of issues related to musicians’ wellness, often in conjunction with other faculties like health science and medicine. What biggest draw for many students, however, is the clinical care the centre offers.

“We have a centre that received musicians and provides all kinds of assessment, treatment, somatic training,” said Comeau. “We have gathered a team of experts that have extensive experience with musicians.”

The centre also has an area looking at hearing and vision for musicians. In total, there are about 10 experts working closely with the centre, including physiotherapists, chiropractors, audiologists, an ophthalmologist, and others. In addition, there are 10 students involved in research and running the centre.

The interdisciplinary centre is an extension of the Piano Pedagogy Lab and uses its space. It also has a clinical room for treatment and a room for group classes.

Importantly, the new centre is meant to be a space for students and musicians in the community, whether they be professionals or amateurs. It’s an open door for any musician in the community, said Comeau.

Other faculties also use the space. Currently, the School of Medicine is doing research to test if musicians are naturally better at performing surgery than non-musicians, and if surgeons would have a leg-up if they have a music background. The centre has also attracted health professionals interested in working with musicians.

Comeau hopes to weave the space tighter into the community over the next few years, giving musicians and people who work with musicians of any age inside or outside of the U of O a space to come to for their health and wellness needs.

“We’re hoping that the educational program and the master’s program will attract more people to make this area better known to musicians,” said Comeau. “It’s not often something that students discuss with their teachers, it’s something that students will often hide, so we’re hoping to make it available to provide information and discussion.” 

“We’re hoping these programs and the treatment and offering of clinical services will attract people and be important in the life of many musicians.”