A Few More Puzzle Pieces

How to Happily Marry Tension Release with Better Ergonomics

by Claire Stefani

Musicians move … A LOT! This is a sentence at the core of the Body Mapping approach and it left me quite perplexed when I heard it for the first time in 2013. Me, a former athlete … how could I assume that serious movement belonged only to sports? Not only do we musicians move a lot, but we humans in general behave better physically and psychologically (!) when we accept that we are in fact made of a bunch of solid parts kept together in movement by soft tissues. Still and static means trouble for our wellbeing. Dynamic balance does sound better, doesn’t it?

For Claires Blog MG 2004

Gwendolyn Masin, the brilliant founder of The Exhale, calls me “quite a unicorn in the music world” and I love it! Like many, problems led me to find answers for myself and in doing so, I realized how that process tied many of my interests together. Athletics led me to an early understanding of the importance of listening to the body voice.

I love the music world and have travelled it as an artist-interface for music-accessory manufacturers and inventors, while avidly playing chamber music as an amateur violist and violinist.

It has been shocking to witness the pervasiveness of pain and injury among dedicated musicians!

Meeting Jennifer Johnson in 2013 lead me to passionately step into the Body Mapping boat, with the hope to sail in it for a life… or two. Getting to contribute to musician health is an honor.

Not enough of a reason to be called a unicorn? Right!

So let’s add my particular, tiny niche-within-the-niche of classical string instrument playing: an expertise on how to optimize the chin/shoulder rest set-up so that it does not add to the many unwanted tensions a musician may host in her/his body at any point of her/his career. I got injured playing the viola, knew musical accessories and niche inventors for customized solutions and… “the rest is history”.

A lot of tension can sneak into a musician’s body year after year. Lack of movement or the attempt to obliterate it for all kinds of reasons (misleading pedagogical language, stage/performance pressure, demanding repertoire keeping you on your toes …) is abuse to the body and will damage it faster than age. So the question is: where do we start the tension release, when stabilizing a violin or a viola invariably over-engages the head and shoulder region?

Chinrests and shoulder rests are only pieces of this marvelous puzzle we play with to get to dynamic balance. But they matter, as would the proper shoes to hike safely to summits … and come back safely, happy and proud!

Aka the long-necked unicorn!

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