Chief investigators and Project Manager
Dr Bronwen Ackermann is a physiotherapist whose interest in performing arts health grew as a result of working with performing artists, particularly musicians, since the early 1990’s. She has toured internationally with various professional orchestras allowing her to first-hand understand and manage the range of problems that may be faced by the professional musician in their working life. This clinical work led to an interest in pursuing research focussed on better prevention and management of musicians' injuries. As a result of her work, she received a Churchill fellowship in 2002 allowing her to spend time with international colleagues involved in both research and clinical work in the field of music medicine.
Bronwen completed a PhD in 2003 investigating assessment and management of performance-related musculoskeletal injuries in violinists. Since then she has been involved with students conducting research into a diverse range of musicians injuries including a study of finger movement discrimination and focal hand dystonia in cellists, the effects of anxiety on EMG and physiological variables in flute performance, performance-related injuries in flute players and bassoonists, right shoulder loads sustained during cello performance, the effect of posture on breathing and embouchure patterns in wind and brass instrumentalists, interventions to prevent injury in professional musicians and the impact of improved health education on injury and performance in tertiary music students.
She joined academia in mid 2006 at the school of physiotherapy with the goal of being better be able to pursue research, and while there re-wrote and ran the upper limb curriculum before moving to the Sydney Medical School where she teaches functional musculoskeletal anatomy.
She is the president of the Australian Society for Performing Arts healthcare and the Chair of the international liaison committee for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (USA). She has presented nationally and internationally to many health professional groups, orchestras, and other health and music organisations about evidence-based principles of injury prevention and management for musicians. Recent presentations included workshops at the 2008 Australian Hand Therapy National Conference, the American Hand Therapy Association National Conference in 2007, the 9th Australasian piano pedagogy conference in July 2009 and is co-convenor of the 2010 Medical Problems of Performing Artists conference in Snowmass, Colorado USA.
Tim Driscoll is a specialist in occupational medicine and public health medicine. He is also a fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. He works as an Associate Professor in epidemiology and occupational medicine in the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, and also works in acute clinical medicine in the public hospital system.
The relevant experience and skills Tim brings to the project relate to epidemiology (the study of factors that affect health within certain populations) and occupational health and safety. Tim has expertise in the development of surveillance and reporting systems and their use in providing information in terms of prioritizing prevention programs and assessing their effectiveness. He will also be in charge of the review of occupational health and safety aspects of current orchestra practice and, along with the other members of the team, will propose new or modified approaches to the on-going management of occupational health and safety in orchestras.
I am interested in research into musician physical and mental health and in developing occupational health and safety policy and practices for musicians.
In my role as Professor of Music and Director, Australian Centre for Applied Research in Music Performance, I produced a systematic body of research into music performance anxiety, a widespread problem within the performing arts that can have significant effects on both physical and mental health.
Our recent work has shown that music performance anxiety increases muscle tension in musicians, a factor that can exacerbate pain and injury in performers whose work requires them to sustain static, asymmetrical loads for extended time periods. Music performance anxiety in its severe form can affect overall quality of life, lead to high substance use and chronic stress.
I have had a previous ARC grant that explored the occupational stress of opera chorus artists, its relationship to music performance anxiety and trait anxiety and the implications of these phenomena on the ability to sustain a career in singing at an elite level. In my other portfolio as Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney, I have engaged in population studies of injured workers, with grant support from the WorkCover Authority of NSW, exploring the systemic barriers to return to work following compensable workplace injury. This work has had a significant impact on the field of injury management, involving changes to workers’ compensation legislation in NSW, modification of curricula for health professionals and invited submissions to government with respect to injury management systems.
We are hoping that this research with the musicians of the orchestras of Australia might have a similar impact in improving the health and well-being of Australia’s musicians.