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May 12, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

What Interests You?

So as you all know, I have two main passions when it comes to career: Music and Fitness.  I’ve gone into mostly uncharted territory with promoting myself as a Musician Health Coach, or a personal trainer for musicians.  What does that mean to you, though?  What does that mean and what do I do and how does that actually benefit you?

  • I am a NASM certified personal trainer.  This is one of the top rated personal training certifications in the country and, along with the NSCA, is considered the gold standard.  In addition to this, this particular certification agency focuses on addressing the different muscle imbalances that everyone tends to develop – especially those who do repetitive motions like driving, sitting at a desk or computer, practicing an instrument, etc.
  • I am a classically trainer professional flutist.  I have studied music performance for a long time, ending (so far) with getting my Masters in Music Performance from FSU.  What does this mean?  It means that I LOVE to play my flute and perform for people.  It means that I am one of those people in the above categories, practicing my instrument for hours, sitting in front of a computer (typing this), and I understand the demands that are placed on a musician’s body.  We are unique in what our discipline requires from us.  I get it, because I’m just like you.

So what the heck is a Musician Health Coach?

Besides  my anatomy/kinesiology knowledge that came along with the personal training certification, I also have studied the Alexander Technique (taking classes/lessons at Interlochen Arts Camp, Appalachian State University and Alexander Murray), Body Mapping (taking the “What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body” class from Barbara Conable, and several other classes and presentations) and taking 2 years of Dynamic Integration with Eva Amsler at FSU.  All three of these different modalities focus on the body; learning about the actual layout and how the body works, understanding how we move, remapping our idea of what we look like on the inside, learning to move with only the amount of tension that is necessary, UNLEARNING how to move in some ways, and most of all becoming hyper AWARE of my body and how it functions/moves.

As a musician health coach, what I do is to help musicians make that connection between their brains and their bodies.  Huh?  Playing the flute involves more than just your lips, arms, fingers and lungs.  You use your entire body to play the flute, trombone, drums, etc.  Do you ever think about these things while playing?

  • When I breathe in my spine compresses and when I breathe out, my spine lengthens
  • I am conscious of the space in-between my shoulder blades, and there is no tension there
  • I feel my feet while playing
  • When a difficult passage comes up, I consciously shift my weight to my right foot to make it easier
  • While breathing, I notice whether it is my chest or abdomen moving
  • During times of nervousness (either playing or about to play) I notice what my different symptoms are in all areas of my body, I can feel them, and I accept them instead of ignoring them.
  • Most times while playing, my attention is on my big toe, the back of my knees or noticing if my shoulders are holding excess tension rather than notes and phrases
  • I’m playing, but I’m feeling my feet
  • While playing, I check in with my body and notice where I have pain and am able to connect that pain (or not) to how I play my instrument
  • I can get up and down out of a chair without tensing my neck
  • When I sit to play I’m aware of how my body is balanced between my sit-bones
  • I feel strong/weak in certain areas of my body when I play

Ever thought any of those thoughts?  I think of that stuff ALL THE TIME.  Whether playing, practicing, preparing to play, weightlifting, driving, etc.  As a musician health coach I see it as my job to help other musicians get out of their heads and into their bodies.  Meaning that I use several methods to “coach” other  musicians into being the best musicians they can be.  I teach flute lessons but in these lessons the focus isn’t just on notes and phrases.  A lot of the time we focus on body awareness, feeling your feet while playing, understanding how to sit in a chair and get in and out of it, noticing our emotions; how it feels to play with the different emotions and learning how to accept them instead of hide from them (including nervousness!).

If a musician or student complains about playing in pain, I begin to cross into the strength training aspect of my career.  After learning how to “check in” with our bodies, I ask them to pinpoint the pain.  I might show them some stretches to do before, during and after playing to combat the tightness that might be there.

Among musicians, especially those who have not been taught body awareness, there can be some pretty severe cases of muscle imbalances, and most often these imbalances lead to pain when playing.  Most flutists I’ve surveyed complain of pain in and around the shoulder and neck area.   A lot of this has to do with not being strong enough to hold our instruments in their proper positions for long amounts of time without compensation.  Compensation is what happens when a muscle or body part is too tired or weak to be able to perform its intended function so other assistant muscles start taking over.  We call this “synergistic dominance”.  For example, if your shoulder and rotator cuff muscles are weak and other muscles are tight (especially your chest muscles), after awhile of playing you might start noticing pain under, around or between your shoulder blades (left, for flutists).  The muscles you were asking to hold up your flute are not strong enough to continue, so other muscles like your chest and trapezius muscles have started to take over the job.  This pulls on your already weak rhomboids and shoulder girdle which causes you to lean over to take the weight off the shoulder. 

Now you are slouching to the right, your spine is out of alignment and your core muscles are not engaged to keep you upright.  Most likely they were weak too, or else you would be able to hold up your flute.  Now that the core is weak, other muscles of the hips have to take over which can cause your hamstrings to be weak, your hips to hurt, calves to be tight and possibly knees to hurt.

Now you’re a mess.  Do you see how the body works together to play the instrument?  We didn’t even talk about breathing!!! 🙂

So, here is my question to you.  In the still relatively uncharted waters of musician health and strength training, what interests you?  As a musician, what would you like to read about?  What are you specific health concerns?  What kinds of articles do you want to read about that you think might help you?  Go outside the box here.  Do you want to read about stretches?  Weight training?  Body Awareness? Travel tips? Overall health and well-being relating to the body and playing?  There are a ton of topics, but I want to write about what interests YOU because I want to help YOU.

What interests you?

Feel free to post a comment on my Facebook page, hit me up on Follow fluteanjel on Twitter, leave a message below or take the poll below.  Love to hear from you!

Click here to take survey

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15 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Stephanie / Mar 26 2011 5:01 PM

    Hi Angela! Very cool topic!! I am a professional flutist and a figure skater, so I find this topic quite fascinating. I wish you lots of luck 🙂 Great to “meet” you! Stephanie

  2. waterproof car Covers cars / May 2 2013 7:45 PM

    I leave a leave a response each time I especially enjoy a post on a website or if
    I have something to valuable to contribute to the discussion.

    Usually it’s a result of the fire communicated in the article I read. And on this post What Interests You? | Music Strong – Angela McCuiston’s
    Blog. I was moved enough to post a commenta response 😉 I do have 2 questions for you if you do
    not mind. Is it only me or does it appear like a few of these comments look like coming from brain
    dead folks? 😛 And, if you are writing at other online social sites, I’d like to follow you. Would you make a list the complete urls of all your communal sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    • Angela McCuiston / Jun 21 2013 12:18 PM

      Yes, you are right…..it’s called spam. If you enjoy these posts please follow me at my new website: http://www.MusicStrong.com
      you can also find me on twitter @fluteanjel
      and on Facebook: facebook.com/musicstrong

Trackbacks

  1. Developing Body Awareness and Self-Trust « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  2. Shoulder Pain Part 1 « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  3. Newsletter « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  4. Trip to Nicholls « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  5. Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Fitness Trainer « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  6. Welcome to my blog – music, flute, fitness, and anything else that crosses my mind! « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  7. 3 Exercises + 1 for Core Strength and Stability « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  8. Identfying Shoulder Pain Part 2 – What to Do About It « Angela McCuiston's Blog
  9. Identifying Shoulder Pain – Part I « innovative ideas in performance and pedagogy
  10. Identifying Shoulder Pain Part 2 – What To Do About It « innovative ideas in performance and pedagogy
  11. The Flutists’ Pain Points « Music Strong – Angela McCuiston's Blog
  12. Exercises to Correct Shoulder Pain

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