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Health & Wellness

Musicians' Health and Safety

The University of Tennessee School of Music, as required by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), is obligated to inform students, faculty and staff of the health and safety issues, hazards, and procedures inherent in music practice, performance, teaching, and listening both in general and as applicable to their specific specializations. This includes, but is not limited to, basic information regarding the maintenance of hearing, vocal, and musculoskeletal health and injury prevention. This also includes instruction on the use, proper handling, and operation of potentially dangerous materials, equipment, and technology as applicable to specific program offerings or experiences.

It is important to note that the primary factor in your health and safety is you and depends largely on your personal decisions. You are personally responsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to yourself before, during, and after study at the UT School of Music. The policies and procedures developed by the School of Music do not alter or cancel any individual's personal responsibility, or in any way shift personal responsibility for the results of any individual's personal decisions or actions in any instance or over time to the university.

Performance Health

Anyone who practices, rehearses or performs instrumental or vocal music has the potential to suffer injury related to the activity. Students are encouraged to supplement information obtained in their lessons, master classes, and guest lectures regarding musicians' health and safety issues by utilizing some of the resources listed on this website.

Instrumental musicians are at risk for repetitive motion injuries or physical problems related to playing their instruments, and, if they are also computer users, their risks are compounded. Instrumental injuries may include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and bursitis.

Likewise, the demands placed on singers' voices are vast. Singers can be forced to cancel a recital or tour, take a break, or undergo a medical procedure due to problems with their voice. Vocalists can suffer from vocal fatigue, anxiety, throat tension, and pain.

Musicians use their bodies in specific and highly trained ways, and injuries can occur that can have lasting impact on performance ability. Performers need to be aware of vocal and musculoskeletal health issues that can affect them. Musicians at all levels of achievement can suffer from repetitive stress injuries, neuromuscular conditions or dystonias, and psychological issues including severe performance anxiety.

Incorrect posture, nonergonomic technique, excessive force, overuse, stress, and insufficient rest contribute to chronic injuries that can cause pain, disability, and the end of a musician's career. Additional factors such as nutrition, smoking, drug use, noisy environments, and proper training (or the lack of it) all play a role in a musician's ability to perform at her/his best.

Resources at UT

  1. Counseling Center
  2. RecSports Fitness and Wellness
  3. Environmental Health and Safety
  4. Student Health Center
  5. UTK Center for Health, Education and Wellness


  1. Conable, B. What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body, (GIA Publications, 2000)
  2. Dawson, W. J. Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy, Rowman and Littlefield/MENC, 2008
  3. Horvath, J. Playing (Less) Hurt
  4. Klickstein, G. The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness (Oxford, 2009)
  5. Norris, R. N. The Musician's Survival Manual (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, 1993)
  6. Watson, A. The Biology of Musical Performance and Performance Related Injury, Scarecrow Press, 2009

Protecting Your Hearing Health

General Acoustics Information

Musculoskeletal Health and Injury

Psychological Health

  • Performance Anxiety (WebMD)
  • Green, B. and Gallwey, W. T. The Inner Game of Music (available through the UTK Music Library; ML3830 .I56 2004 )
  • Ristad, E. A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances (available through the UTK Music Library, MT2 .R57)

Equipment and Technology

Student assistants with duties involving the handling and operation of equipment and technology, such as stage managers or recording technicians, will receive appropriate training from the department equipment technician.

Acoustic Conditions in Practice, Rehearsal, and Performance Facilities

Although UT's practice, rehearsal, and performance facilities meet OSHA Noise Standards, students must be mindful of exposure to excessive noise levels for extended periods of time. OSHA guidelines define excessive noise levels as 90 decibels or higher for more than 8 hours. For more information, please see the Decibel Comparison Chart. Please see the Musical Decibel Levels Chart for decibel levels specific to musical performance and listening.

Note: Health and safety depend in large part on the personal decisions of informed individuals. Institutions have health and safety responsibilities, but fulfillment of these responsibilities cannot and will not ensure any specific individual's health and safety. Too many factors beyond any institution's control are involved. Individuals have a critically important role and each is personally responsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to themselves before, during, and after study or employment at any institution. The NASM standards above and applicable guidelines below, and institutional actions taken under their influence or independently do not relieve the individual from personal responsibility for appropriate, prudent, and safe behavior or action, nor do they shift such responsibility and liability for the consequences of inappropriate, imprudent, and/or unsafe behavior or action in any instance or over time to any institution, or to NASM.

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