Hearing Loss Resource

Introducing the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss!

As written on their About web page:

“AAMHL’s mission is to:

1) create opportunities for adult musicians with hearing loss to discuss the challenges they face in making and listening to music.

2) create opportunities for public performance either individually or in groups by adult musicians with hearing loss who might not otherwise have access to these opportunities

3) provide ongoing feedback to hearing health professionals, hearing researchers, manufacturers of hearing assistive technology, music educators and others to improve hearing device technology relative to music performance and enjoyment

4) provide educational opportunities to enable hard of hearing and deaf adults to appreciate and make music in ways not previously available”

{Insert infomercial voice}

If you have experienced or are currently experiencing music related hearing loss, don’t hesitate to find out more information at the AAMHL site: https://www.musicianswithhearingloss.org/wp/.

Health and Healing,

Breathing Videos

Have you ever struggled to explain how breathing actually works to your students?
What exactly the ever-elusive diaphragm is?
Hopefully these videos will trigger some inspiration.

This first video was recently released and shows the respiratory system in a colorful, active, three-dimensional way.

TED-Ed has created the following 3 minute video.  It should be appealing to younger students with it’s simple animation.  I especially like how it talks about Carbon Dioxide, a great visual reminder of the importance of breathing out before breathing in:

A verbal description of the mechanics of breathing accompanies the three dimensional view of the respiratory system in action in this video:

Now this last one is a gem, flashing back a few decades educational science documentaries on PBS.  It may not be conducive to sharing in a lesson with students but it sure sent me back to younger years and made me smile!

Health and Healing,

The Kooiman Thumb Rest

A few years ago I tripled my daily playing hours.  With three hours of practicing, countless hours of reed making, rehearsals and performances, my right arm staged a rebellion.

Pain can be a fantastic motivator.  Truly, this was the beginning of my interest in oboe health.  With the help of a physical therapist and my professor’s recommendation to read Oboemotions by Stephen Caplan (to be discussed in a future post), I was able to identify my postural issues and work to correct my body alignment.  But it wasn’t enough.

My poor thumb needed extra reinforcement.  This is where the Kooiman came to play.  The design of the thumb rests move the weight distribution of the instrument from the Interphalangeal (IP) Joint


closer to the Metacarpophalangeal (MP) Joint, where the metacarpal bone of the thumb attaches to the trapezium bone of the wrist.  If you press down on these two joints, you will most likely find that the MP Joint is much sturdier, especially if you have loose ligaments.  Moving the weight of the instrument closer to the MP joint can reduce strain in the soft tissue of the thumb, subsequent inflammation and possible repetitive use injuries.

There are two Kooiman thumb rest designs for oboists, the Etude 3.


and the Oboe.


Due to my student and parental status at the time of purchase, I chose to give the $40 Etude3 a try before investing in the $270 Oboe model.  Three years later, I still use the Etude3 and love it.  The Oboe model does have a place, especially for an oboist with long fingers because it is more capable of fine tuned adjustment.  But for this post I will focus on my experience with the Etude3.


First and foremost, if you are not confident in your instrument maintenance skills, seek out the nearest oboe technician for help with installation.

If you look closely you will notice that the holes of the original Loree AK thumb rest are further apart than the holes on the Kooiman thumb plate.

IMG_20160910_224926486_HDR.jpg                img_20160910_224811280_hdr

The instructions recommend drilling the holes in the instrument.  I would like to propose a better, less anxious option.  Thanks to the inspiration of my genius technician, we drilled the plastic of mounting plate instead.  It has been a successful solution.

The instructions say to use screws included in the package.  I highly recommend you use the original screws from your instrument to prevent the holes from being stripped and the need to drill deeper holes to accommodate longer screws.


There are three ways to adjust the placement of the thumb rest for ideal hand positioning.

  1.   Three different holes on the mounting plate (see photo above.)
  2.  When the thumb rest slides onto the mounting plate from above, it will click into place multiple times, once at each groove.img_20160910_231521591
  3.  The height of the swiveling attachment of the thumb rest can be adjusted by turning the screw underneath.

Getting Comfortable:

Most likely, it will take a few weeks to get comfortable using the Etude3.  Be patient and adjust the height of the attachment as well as the placement on your thumb as needed.  Now, after long term use, my thumb rest is just a mindless extension of my arm.


Most simply put, the Etude3 has proven to be a valuable tool for those looking for relief from oboe induced thumb pain and tenderness.

Health and Healing,

Alex Klein and Focal Dystonia

This insightful interview with Alex Klein discusses his experience in managing focal dystonia and his inspiring return to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra .  Throughout the discussion, Alex speaks in detail regarding his symptoms, triggers, therapy and recovery.

Such a stellar interview, I highly recommend it!



The Physiology of the Tongue

Did you know that the tongue is really 8 muscles?  How often do you think of your tongue placement in your mouth?  How it moves as you articulate?  Or when adjusting for pitch or tone color?

Sarah Willis, a professional french horn musician, went into an MRI with a copper instrument to get a good picture of what really happens inside a wind musician’s mouth as they play.  The result is fascinating!

If you are not familiar with Sara Willis, she is most commonly known as the first woman  member of the Berlin Philharmonic’s brass section, you can find her bio here.

In the video below, Sarah has a delightful interview session with Albrecht Mayer, one of my all time favorite oboists.  They discuss food, Albrecht’s instrument, life in the Berlin Phil, and he even does a circular breathing demonstration.  Quite entertaining.

In the BBC News: Hearing Loss

An interesting read about the darker side of sitting in front of the brass section without ear protection.   You can find the BBC News article titled “Musician sues Royal Opera House over ruined hearing” by Clive Coleman posted April 1, 2016 here : http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-35938704

Chris Goldscheider
A reminder to be wise in using sound shields such as these http://www.canadianaudiologist.ca/shields-screens-and-baffles/ and ear plugs.  See the Hearing Page for more resources on the topic.

Coping: When Injury Strikes

My Master’s Recital was supposed to be today.  Granted it was only  an elective recital, the important one is next year in my third and final year of graduate studies.  But disappointment still lingers.

I was so excited for the recital program, loaded with musical personality.  The flourished ornamentation of Vivaldi, the romantically charged melody and rich accompaniment of Bowen, the mysteriousness and energy of Dutilleux, and the jazzy flair of Blues for DD by Jeffrey Agrell.

But last month when my shoulder subluxed, the doctor said these discouraging words: “If you don’t get the swelling down, you’ll need surgery.”  Reality struck.  The recital was no longer a possibility.  The required hours of practice and reed making for the performance far exceeded my capabilities.

This experience led me to ponder how to emotionally and mentally cope with injury as an active musician.  Not practicing for a week left me with plenty of time to ruminate.

As I have looked back through my decade-long journey of health discovery, I have found there to be three main components in successful healing:

The Reality Check:

Feeling pain?  Swelling?  Tenderness?  Weakness?
It’s time to ask the hard questions.  They differ for everyone, as we are all unique in our ailments, but here is a starting point:

What exactly is my injury?
What are my symptoms?
Where do they manifest?
What are my pain triggers?
What am I doing to perpetuate the injury?
What is the long term damage if I continue to ignore it?
What are my current mental, emotional and physical stressors?
How are these stressors restricting my healing process?

Finding Help:

Once you have accepted the fact that you are injured, build a network to assist you through the curative process.

Find medical physicians to aid in seeking solutions.  Primary care physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutritionists, acupuncture/acupressure specialists, and surgeons (though one would hope not to go that route!) are all good sources.  Do your research and get referrals so you know you are finding doctors who excel in their field and when possible, are experienced in treating musicians.

Make plans.  Once you have isolated your health issue, draft daily steps and long term goals for your healing regimen.  Do your stretches and exercises everyday!

Be proactive in health care decisions.  Do your research and know your options.

When facing an injury, it is important to establish a terra firma, or solid ground, for those days when you may be more vulnerable to discouragement.  Experiencing pain and loss of functionality can be frightening, frustrating, and depressing.  Teachers, fellow musicians, friends, and family are all places to find support.  Build a support system of those you can count on so you are not alone on your journey to health.  If necessary, find a counselor or life coach to help you better mentally and emotionally navigate your set backs.

This fantastic post is written for athletes and coaches but is easily transferable to musicians and teachers, I found it insightful in many ways:

Finding Hope:

When I was coming to the close of my undergraduate studies years ago, I experienced my first bout with tendinitis.  The pain completely derailed me.  All of a sudden I was questioning my major, my future, my dreams…  In hindsight, my thinking was incredibly irrational.  If I had taken the time to seek out answers, I could have worked it out.  But the reality was I let hopelessness win.

So how do you stay hopeful?
How do you keep pushing forward when it feels as if life is pushing you back?

It may sound Pollyanna-ish, but look for the good.

Reset your life plans in a way that won’t require dropping off the path completely but rather rerouting.  Often setbacks in one area of life can create opportunity for the development of other talents.  Find ways to stimulate your mind when your body won’t perform.

Let me introduce Megan Bain-Tidwell, an inspiring BYU gymnast.  Megan tore her achilles tendon in a meet a couple years ago, leaving her unable to compete for the rest of the season.  She was incapable of standard training except on the uneven bars.  Through hard work and stubborn determination, she was able to turn her weakness around and later compete stronger than ever as an all-around gymnast.

What weaknesses can you overcome as you recuperate?  What other ways can you stay positively engaged in life?

My Own Hope:

One gift from my current shoulder injury has been a greater awareness of my posture.  With my shoulder threatening to slip out of socket each time I lean forward, it is crucial that I stay mindful of my body alignment.  I am 90% sure I have grown a couple inches in the last month.  In fact, I was taller than my husband when I sat next to him the other day, which is quite the accomplishment considering the fact that I’m 5’6″ and he’s a full 6 feet!

I have still been working on the recital pieces, just at a less aggressive rate.  Hopefully letting the pieces marinate longer will lead to better mastery and understanding.  Now I will just aim for a summer performance.

Today, in an attempt to find new hope in the face of discouragement, I tied a case full of new blanks.  A symbol of new beginnings.  This is a picture that brings me great joy!

IMG_20160319_215229641Because in the big picture of my musical journey in life, this injury is only a small setback, a mid-movement fermata.  The music will go on.

Health and Healing,

The Musician’s Way

If you aren’t familiar with the book The Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein, put it on your radar.   The book is written in three sections:

  • Part I, Artful Practice, describes strategies to interpret and memorize compositions, organize practice, fuel motivation, collaborate, and more.
  • Part II, Fearless Performance, exposes the causes of nervousness and shows how musicians can become secure, expressive performers.
  • Part III, Lifelong Creativity, equips performers to prevent occupational injuries, enhance their creativity, and build rewarding careers.(1)

Collected through Klickstein’s own experiences, this book holds a wealth of information on developing a successful career and lifestyle as a professional musician.  He specifically addresses both maintaining good health and navigating injuries as a musician.

Klickstein has created a companion website at http://musiciansway.com/ as well as a blog at http://musiciansway.com/blog/.

Here are few posts that may of interest:

The bibliographic information for The Musician’s Way is on the prevention page here:  https://healthyoboist.wordpress.com/prevention/.

Health and Healing,