Playing (Less) Hurt


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Janet Horvath won the gold medal in the Independant Publisher (I.P.P.Y.) Awards 2009! 

Find Janet at the Minnesota Orchestra! Visit the Minnesota Orchestra website for more information.

Let’s talk about something scary, something musicians are even more reticent to talk about than overuse injury. Hearing loss is on the rise and is a danger to all of us. Read Janet Horvath's white paper on hearing loss for more information.

Janet Horvath now has a regular column on Interlude HK a classical music online magazine. Her articles range from health issues relevant to professional and student musicians as well as humorous behind-the-scenes- stories about life as a musician. These articles are of interest to all musicians, giving excellent advice on strategies to deal with existing injuries as well as how to avoid injury, and gives an insiders view of all things music!

Janet Horvath's article on "Posture Pointers" appears in a 2006 issue of Strings Magazine. This article is an excellent overview of the all-important issue of posture and how it relates to tension and injury. Ms. Horvath discusses "Risky Postures," "Tension" and its relationship to posture, "Natural" postures, as well as other points related to appropriate posture for performing musicians.

When you hear the words "Mahler's Fifth," you probably think "great music." Janet Horvath wants you to think "phenomenal athleticism." Horvath, associate principal cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra and a pioneer in performing arts medicine, has been on a mission to get musicians, instructors and management to realize that playing any instrument is physically demanding. (Interview by Chrys Wu)


"If you're an orchestral musician you could be at serious risk of long-term hearing damage. Janet Horvath looks at some simple and effective solutions."The Strad (December 2004)

« A Sample of Janet's Seminar Content: | Main

Playing (Less) Hurt Seminars

All of the following seminars can be geared towards the particular audience, the instruments represented and the age group of the attendees. Lengths of the seminars are adjustable. For example, the seminars can be presented to all instrumentalists in any genre, to string players only, to keyboard players only, or wind and brass players only. Click here to download a copy of Janet's fee schedule.

1) Injury Prevention Seminar
                      length 2 and ¼  hours
This seminar covers the history of performing arts medicine and includes information on why it may hurt to play and how to avoid injury and experience a long and fruitful career. The following subjects are discussed through a power point presentation. During the seminar there is a demonstration of stretches, which can even be done backstage and onstage in full dress and while holding one’s instrument. The musicians may bring their instruments or may try the stretches without them. Several props, splints, and tools are demonstrated.

This seminar is intended for all instrumentalists and may be adapted for professionals or amateurs, rock and/or jazz musicians, students and/or teachers,  managers and/or health care providers and students, parents with children who are studying etc.

  •  A discussion of the typical injuries as seen in musicians.
  •  Why it may hurt to play: overuse and misuse.
  •  Injury susceptibility & risk factors. Risky postures and techniques.
  •  Optimal playing posture & ergonomic solutions. 
  •  Guide to safe practicing and warming up both before playing and at the instrument. 
  •  Strengthening and stretching. 
  •  Do’s and Don’ts
  •  Back, arm, disc, shoulder, neck, hand, TMJ, and teeth issues.
  •  Static loading as a contributing factor to injury, i.e. the risks of “holding” postures and sitting like statues.
  •  On and offstage tension relief strategies (Onstage “tricks” that can be done while performing (these are demonstrated)
  •  Instrument modifications. (Photographs of many of the options are shown). 
  •  Props, splints, chairs, straps and devices to help hold instruments are shown.
  •  What to do if you are hurt - rehabilitation strategies both on and off stage.
  •  How to return to playing after an injury
  •  Preparation plans before an important performance, audition or competition


Other subject matter would include: 

  • The grueling schedules and behind the scenes politics
  • The challenges of particular instruments (awkward postures, unusual sitting arrangements, difficulties of holding heavier instruments, the sensitivity of instruments to climate change etc)
  • The unique jargon.
  • The daily performance anxiety.
  • The physical difficulty of certain techniques (these would be demonstrated).
  • The challenges of touring and recording.
  • The unpredictability of repertoire, schedules, conductor, setting and location from week to week.
  • The sometimes abusive, demanding conductor
  • The tremendously difficult new repertoire, and the repertoire changing from week to week.
  • The pressures of making a living wage especially for free-lancers and jazz musicians who may not be able to turn down an engagement due to illness or pain issues.


2) Hearing Protection for musicians                        length 90 minutes

Our hearing is in jeopardy in our toxically noisy world. Additionally, musicians are subject to very high decibel levels on a daily basis during concerts and rehearsals and they may not realize the damage that may occur. Hearing injury is cumulative but unlike overuse injuries they are permanent. Musicians are very reticent to discuss this area and need a safe and confidential environment to explore the subject, to understand the risks and to be aware of strategies that can protect them. Furthermore, hearing injuries are rampant in the young iPod generation. Young people are unaware that they are doing damage to their ears. Millions of young people already suffer from Tinnitus and other noise induced hearing injuries. This seminar would feature the following subjects:

  • Decibel levels we are subject to on a daily basis onstage and off.
  • Noise induced Hearing Injuries
  • Hearing protection strategies.
  • Hearing protection curriculum and resources that are available


 3) Teacher Training                                           length 90 minutes and up


Injuries among student are on the rise. Many educators have never received injury prevention training and frequently are at a loss when students present themselves with pain. Ms Horvath will teach her injury prevention curriculum so that other instructors will learn how to guard against pain in their own students. Through a power point presentation the following subjects will be presented. The goals are to promote ease and fluidity in playing. The format is informal and interactive so that there is plenty of time for discussion. Stretches will be demonstrated and tried as a group, and tools, props, and splints will be shown. Subjects include:

  • How to prevent injuries
  • Postural guidelines
  • Chairs and sitting that suits the individual
  • Injury susceptibilities
  • Danger signals
  • Lesson plans
  • Teaching safe practicing- 5 Practice Rules
  • Initiating a routine of warm ups
  • Guiding a student through practice plans
  • Classroom guidelines for hearing protection
  • How to advocate for better conditions and better equipment
  • How to achieve an atmosphere of trust so that the student feels comfortable to discuss emotional and physical factors which affect their playing


4) Workshops                                                       One hour and up

These sessions are more hands-on. They are limited to 12 people who bring their instruments for postural evaluation. This workshops delves more deeply into discussions about posture and form and the participants are evaluated individually. Onstage Tricks and Backstage stretches are demonstrated and tried as a group.  The issues of seating and chairs are delved into and each musician leaves with a wealth of resource material and goals for improving their ease of playing, reducing tension and increasing the longevity of their careers. 


 5) Stress Busting                                           length 75 minutes

Musicians suffer from the life stresses that the general public suffers from. In addition, musicians suffer from performance anxiety. Expectations and standards are exceedingly high. During both rehearsals and concerts, any errors are heard and are public. The long training musicians go through are largely based on criticism – from our parents our teachers, our colleagues, the newspapers, the conductors, the public and not least of which ourselves. This negativity adversely affects the joy of music making and the soothing, healing benefits of the art that listeners experience. 

This seminar includes:


  • Strategies for Mindfulness, Focusing and Positive Thinking
  • Preparation: How to Get ready physically, mentally, musically and technically for an important upcoming concert, competition, audition or jury.
  • Breathing techniques


 6) The Aging Musician                                   length 75 minutes

As a musician ages, playing one’s instrument becomes more challenging.  General health issues may affect them such as their eyesight and hearing, as well as illnesses that affect all aging populations. Additionally, musicians have extraordinarily long careers. For example, I have already played professionally in orchestras for 33 years and I am still in my fifties. In other careers people retire after 30 years. 

Many musicians have spent a lifetime overusing muscles and tendons and as a result have asymmetrical body development. They may have reached their maximum exposure and suffer from muscle fatigue, back pain, shoulder pain, and a myriad of other issues. Older musicians must practice more to maintain the high levels expected of them just to “keep up” and they must exercise more to maintain strength and fluidity at a time when they have many other commitments and while individuals in other professions are “winding down”. These older musicians often feel threatened by the new talent coming in. They feel replaceable, undervalued and insecure especially if they feel that their technique is declining.

These musicians need a nurturing, safe and confidential environment in order to explore the options available to them and to maintain their health and status in their profession.


7)  Cello or Chamber Master Class              length 90 minutes to two hours

Ms Horvath is also available for standard master classes assisting in interpretation of repertory and technical difficulties.


8) Individual Sessions                                      length 30 minutes and up

Pre-arranged individual sessions are available to address injuries, postures, techniques, instrument size, posture, practice habits, rehabilitation and referrals to physicians or other health care professionals.


9)  In-Class Presentation                                length 60 minutes and up

The subject matter of the class can follow the curriculum and the wishes of the professor/teacher 


10) Musical Life-Smarts                                  length 60 minutes and up

 This seminar is a broad discussion of strategies for success as a professional musician. The following questions would be discussed: How does a musician prepare for a life in music? What things must an instrumentalist be prepared to do to be successful? How can a musician be a self-starter and create a job if auditions don’t work out? What strategies can a musician learn to present them-self successfully?  Discussion would include suggestions for successful interviews, resume writing, imaginative programming, marketing and promotion, reaching and expanding audiences etc.