Curtis, 61 years old, plays with the Hamilton Philharmonic, occasionally subs with the TSO. He also runs a business called TorMusic Entertainment – contracting musicians for corporate, private, and commercial performances.
I had a separated shoulder from a skiing accident in 1985. Looking back I’ve had problems with my back since my 20s, but when I was the Assistant Concertmaster for Showboat, a while ago, my back went totally out of whack, and I found myself in and out of various kinds of physio. At the time it was probably yoga that helped the most… Recently all the shoulder problems cropped back up: a lot of pain, spasms in my shoulder, neck, and arm. Wendy Rose (Associate Principal Violinist in the TSO) said I should see Ginette Hamel, who works part-time out of the Artist’s Health Centre but also sees clients at her home.
Ginette thinks the problem is “bio-mechanical”: having to do with the way bones, muscles and nerves work (or not) together. There are 3 or 4 nerves needing to be freed in my neck, so I’m learning some exercises she calls “nerve gliding”, and learning about stretching and relaxation for the muscles needed to play the violin.
We’re also working on strengthening something called the multifidus muscles ( in your back): it’s what dancers use to stabilize the lower body: as a violinist you need them to be able to sit properly. What I’m hoping to achieve is not to have pain so that I can continue to do a lot of playing into my 70s.
Ginette doesn’t give you a general programme. Her approach is “Okay.. what precisely do you have to do, and what isn’t working,?” And then we work together…
Ginette Hamel is a physiotherapist who has worked for more than two decades with elite and amateur athletes of all kinds. You will find her clients competing at international games, but also at renowned ballet schools, in dance companies, and on stage and in the pits with Canada’s finest ballet, opera, and symphony orchestras.
“Dancers as athletes” isn’t a new concept: over time it has benefited both communities, affecting how dancers and athletes think of themselves in terms of body awareness and self-care. The public has come to have an increasingly sophisticated appreciation for people who are able to push their bodies to achieve extraordinary things, but without the corresponding need to glorify the pain and injuries.
Ginette began working in sports physiotherapy but says the leap to working with dancers, which began with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, “just made sense.” She was immediately struck by how much need there was for a similarly specialized approach.
There’s no point in saying to athletes or dancers “well if it hurts just don’t do it anymore”. They have too much at stake doing something they love, are driven to do. You have to find out how they can be more comfortable, and why something is not working…you teach them to be more aware of their bodies, to pay attention, so that they can be even better at what they do.
But musicians as athletes? This is a concept whose time has not only come but is long overdue. Ginette confirms that a long-standing stigma has kept many working musicians from admitting even to themselves, that they were “working wounded”.
They used to be so afraid, if they told someone they were hurting, they would not be hired. That this made them look bad.
Working with dancers at the innovative