Ep 18: Playing (Less) Hurt with Janet Horvath
Janet Horvath, the Minnesota Orchestra’s associate principal cello from 1980 to 2012, is a lifelong performing classical musician, soloist, and speaker. She has appeared as soloist with orchestra, and has performed in recital and chamber music throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. “Ms. Horvath’s outgoing musical personality and passionate intensity flavors every aspect of her musicianship, and draws from her instrument a tone, which has the texture and feeling of rich golden honey…”
She earned her master’s degree in music performance from Indiana University stufying with Janos Starker. Since leaving the orchestra, Janet has focused on her writing and in November of 2017, she completed her MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN. Horvath is the author of Playing (less) Hurt—An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians published by Amadeus Press (Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group), and is considered a pioneer and authority in the area of the medical problems of performing artists. Initially self-published, her book won a gold medal at the 2009 IPPY awards and is still in print.
Recent essays include A Musician Afraid of Sound published in The Atlantic, October 2015, and Sound of the Cello, published June 2017 in the Minnesota Orchestra’s monthly program book and online. Her nonfiction has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (December 2015 and 2011) and in national and international music publications, including Musical America, Chamber Music America, Strings Magazine, The Brass Herald and Strad Magazine among others. A contributing writer for the online classical music e-magazine Interlude.HK, she has written over 215 feature articles about music and musicians.
After more than thirty years as a performer, and as an arts and injury prevention advocate, Janet is well-known among both amateur and professional musicians, teachers and students, and health care providers. Her seminars have been well received by orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, Utah Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and Boston Symphony Orchestra, and at colleges, conservatories, and conferences from coast to coast. Her appearances on national radio and television include Terry Gross’ Fresh Air on NPR, The Woman’s Connection [watch video] and Athletes and the Arts [click on ‘Articles’ to watch videos].
The recipient of the 2001 Richard J. Lederman Lecture Award presented by the Performing Arts Medical Association, she has lectured at the prestigious Medical Problems of Musicians and Dancers Symposium in Aspen, Colorado. Janet is in demand for her injury prevention roundtables and has been involved in leading discussions with doctors, insurance companies, professional, amateur, and student musicians, managers of orchestras, and directors of schools regarding prevention of playing injuries. These lectures and master classes include a variety of injury prevention strategies, including good practice and warm-up habits, on-stage tricks to alleviate tension, Do’s and Don’ts, injury susceptibility, ergonomics, orthotics and props that are available to us, and rehabilitation strategies. Recently, hearing issues have come to the fore. Decibels can be dangerous. Janet has been at the forefront of exposing the risks and raising awareness of hearing injuries that can occur due to noise and loud music.
in this episode
It was an honour to speak with Janet as she is someone who has been a leader in bringing musicians’ health issues into the mainstream. She started working in this field before it was a field! We explore:
Janet’s early training
Her studies with Janos Starker at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN
Her own experience with an overuse injury (“Bloomington-itis”) while at IU and how she rebuilt her technique with an emphasis on ease and fluidity of movement
Janet’s role in initiating and organizing the first national conference on musicians’ injuries in the US
The fear and stigma surrounding injury among musicians at this time (mid-80s)
How becoming a go-to person for injured musicians led Janet to write her book, Playing (Less) Hurt, as an act of self-preservation
How playing with ease and efficiency is not a quick fix and instead requires on-going exploration and awareness
The importance of changing positions, moving and stretching, and taking breaks during practice
Ideal sitting posture, which includes having the knees lower than the hips and weight in the feet
The importance of having a sense of neutral to move from and return to
How the way we prepare to play may need to change as we get older
Janet’s thoughts on what aspiring musicians need to know in order to help prevent injury and to have sustainable lives as musicians
The Minnesota Orchestra’s “working hardening” program (essentially a gradual return to work after injury)
Why, when considering ease and naturalness of movement, practicing alone at home is not the same as playing in the orchestra and why, therefore, injured musicians may need longer to return playing in the ensemble even after they have built up the capacity to practice for longer periods on their own
How Janet brought musicians and health professionals together around the topic of musicians’ health, and eventually wrote her book, at a time when there was no internet and generally much less awareness of the support available for musicians with injuries
How the Performing Arts Medicine Association was formed
The lengths Janet went to in order to help educate medical professionals, insurance providers, and orchestra administrators about the physical demands involved in playing an instrument
Why it is often necessary, in the event of an injury, to take some time away from the instrument in order to heal well
Noise-induced injuries including hearing loss, hyperacusis, and tinnitus and how these affect more than just hearing
Janet’s own experience with hyperacusis caused by an acoustic shock and the impact this had on her life and her career
Some ideas of what musicians can do to protect their hearing
Janet’s website which includes various videos of interviews with Janet as well as many of her writings
Janet’s interview with Noa Kageyama on The Bulletproof Musician Podcast