Event Report: Maximising Performance: Artistry, Implementation and Empowerment

Physiotherapist and BAPAM registered practitioner, Sarah Upjohn, attended the 2013 PAMA symposium with support from BAPAM through our Research and Education Bursary Fund. Here’s Sarah’s report on the event:

Maximising Performance: Artistry, Implementation and Empowerment

Performing Arts Medicine Annual Symposium

July 20th – 23rd   2013

 Snowmass, near Aspen,

Colorado. USA

I am the physiotherapist at The Purcell School for Young Musicians, and have been on the BAPAM Directory of practitioners since October 2008.

I am also a Doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, where I am a member of their first ever cohort of Education Doctorate students.  The Education Doctorate is a five year part-time course designed for mature professionals who are seeking to address, explore, or more deeply understand a situation at their place of work.  I am now 40% of the way through and am seeking to address the incidence of preventable playing related injuries seen in elite young musicians at The Purcell School, through a health promotion and injury prevention programme, including more  ‘tailored’ physical activity.

Every year the Performing Arts Medicine Association holds an Annual Symposium in Snowmass, near Aspen, in Colorado. This year the conference information showed that a significant emphasis was being placed on topics such as

  • Maximising performance
  • Performance physiology
  • Performance Wellness Programmes
  • Athletes and the Arts

I very much wanted to attend, as it seemed so closely aligned to the topic of my EdD, but was utterly unable to afford the airfare, registration fee and accommodation costs. At the end of April I approached BAPAM and asked if they would be able to offer financial help to enable me to attend this high profile and highly relevant conference.  I am extremely grateful to BAPAM and its decision to fund my airfare from London to Aspen.

The conference was wonderful and exceeded my expectations. I arrived late on the evening of 18th July, and had allowed Friday 19th to recover from the journey.  The conference began at 8.30 on Saturday morning and was programed non-stop, with sessions and workshops for three and a half days.  I soon met two friendly faces in the shape of BAPAM colleagues Jennie Morton and Mike Shipley.

Highlights:

For two years I have been reading widely and deeply on the topic of playing related injuries in instrumental musicians as my review of the relevant literature has informed and shaped my research question. One of the most immediately wonderful aspects of the conference was that so many active researchers in Performing Arts Medicine were there, either presenting, or  contributing as delegates. I was able to listen to, meet, and network with so many people whose work I have been reading, that I had an enormous sense of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. Three of my particular heroes, William Dawson, Kris Chesky and Ralph Manchester were there: as authors of the ‘Health Promotion in Schools of Music Project’, the work of these men has been absolutely instrumental in the development of my role as physiotherapist at The Purcell School. It was really fabulous to put faces (and voices) to names.

The topics covered were diverse, from sessions about noise induced hearing loss to a beautiful demonstration of physiological changes that occur to heart rate during performance.   But there was a definite move towards performance wellness, and towards using established science from the field of athletics training and exercise physiology within performing arts medicine. As a physiotherapist these two aspects particularly resonate with my thinking.

On Tuesday 23rd July, the conference finished by 11.30 a.m and I wasn’t leaving for the airport until 2.30pm. So I bought a sandwich and a chair lift ticket and rode to the very top of the Elk Camp chair lift. Hugely appreciating the views, Tuesdays lunch was eaten at an altitude of 11,325 feet  (about 11,286 feet higher than lunch in Cambridge on Wednesday).

I came away brimming with ideas that I hope to implement at Purcell, such as

  • Increasing cardio-respiratory fitness levels as a means of reducing levels of performance anxiety.
  • Introducing imagery and visualisation techniques to help reduce performance anxiety and also to introduce ‘off instrument’ practise techniques.
  • Increasing aerobic  fitness capacity to reduce incidence of injury

Most importantly meeting like-minded, committed, caring professionals was inspiring, energising and affirming.  I am looking forward to the start of the 3rd year of the EdD and am ready to continue finding creative ways to address the issue of preventable injuries occurring in young musicians.

Huge thanks to BAPAM for enabling me to attend this world class event. I hope to have work of my own to present there within in the next 2 or 3 years.

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