Question of the day: what are you doing to keep yourself healthy and, on top of that, to expand your horizons even though you may be confined to home more so than you might wish?
As a scholar and healthcare practitioner, now, for me, is an intensified time of both thinking–reading, writing, researching–and focusing on health and ways to maintain my own wellbeing and support that of my patients. Austin’s own Miró Quartet, for its part, is shifting gracefully with the tides while engaging that much more creatively with the classical music for which they are renowned. Did you know, for instance, that they are currently streaming online performances that they would have otherwise delivered live at the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival? There will be more of this to come over the course of the upcoming year; meantime, viola player John Largess spoke to me about our work together and his thoughts on musician health, Beethoven, and the Quartet’s plans to remain available, accessible, and creatively vibrant as we all navigate an ever-changing terrain.
Dr. Paula: John, as your acupuncturist, there is a lot I can say about how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is great for professional musicians. From your perspective, how does TCM benefit you and your work?
John: A musician is in many ways an athlete of the small muscles, and my quartet can be performing and rehearsing for up to 8 hours each and every day on a long tour or at a festival. Regular tui na [traditional Chinese bodywork therapy] and cupping on my back has really helped keep the muscles and tendons of my fingers, hands and arms healthy and to recover more quickly after long strain.
Acupunture and herbs have also really helped me deal better with the stress of constant travel, and the energy drain of being onstage every night. I get sick much less often now and when I do I recover more quickly.
Many musicians, especially violinists, are nervous about acupuncture because of a high profile incident years ago where a well known violinist was injured by a non certified practitioner using needles. I have received acupuncture needles in many treatments for more than ten years now and never had any problems whatsoever. Always make sure your practitioner like any doctor is fully licensed, and share any worries you might have at you treatment. For me, acupuncture is great for my systemic issues: when my whole body is tired, stressed, or fighting off a cold. Tui na is an ideal treatment for my muscular pain: in my back, shoulders or very specifically on the small muscles of my wrists and fingers I use in playing.
Dr. Paula: Thank you for explaining the differing benefits of TCM for musicians this way! As readers may know, one of my specialty areas is musicians’ health. I really enjoy the detail work of attending to a musician’s hands and, just as you note, the small muscles of the wrists and fingers require dedicated attention. It does take thoughtful support to keep a working musician healthy for all the reasons you outline. In addition, a musician who wants a long career cannot be a passive recipient of healthcare; instead, the musician needs to be an engaged partner with his or her acupuncturist.
Between now and August 8th, you and your colleagues in the Miró Quartet are live streaming the entire Beethoven cycle in lieu of your usual Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival appearance. I love watching and listening to these amazing performances from the comfort of home. Your energy and that of the Quartet combined with the beauty of the music imbues each performance with the magic that an in-person event would have. I think that someone who might have never thought to buy a ticket and go to a concert hall could really, really enjoy these online events. Plus, given our current cultural and historical moment, it’s safer and healthier to enjoy things from home. For readers who might not be familiar with Beethoven, can you please give some insight into his life and time? Why would music like this resonate then and now? And how will the Miró Quartet continue to bring cultural treasures like this to the public and, at the same time, remain safe and healthy?
John: Thank you I’m so glad you are enjoying the concerts! Beethoven also lived during a time of political unrest and uncertainly and he was no stranger to health issues himself. His music was meant to comfort, inspire and challenge the listener to question what it means to be human in this challenging world. Especially good messages for our times! With our various states of Covid isolation these days, it’s a perfect time to engage with great art in the comfort of your own home. There’s an intimacy and immediacy watching a live stream that actually is hard to achieve onstage in a concert hall. In our programs, we talk about the music and Beethoven’s life, and what it’s like for us to play it. We let the audience get to know us four musicians a bit personally, and then we perform an entire piece live. Each show is about an hour, perfect length for a “isolation date” at home, or to watch together with a glass of wine on Zoom with friends! I guarantee you will feel more relaxed, energised and inspired after!
And since it’s live, you have the option to chat with other viewers on the side bar during the show, or text us questions you’d like answered. We end each show with 15 minutes of chatting with the audience live through our host, so anything you want to know we can talk about!
Dr. Paula: I am so enjoying these performances. At present, one of my goals is to inspire creativity in my patients and in those who keep up with my social media. Staying home, rolling with the punches delivered by the daily news, maintaining one’s emotional stability, and remaining healthy makes for a tall order right now. I hope to encourage people to expand their horizons even when they’re confined to home. There is a reason why classical music has remained beloved for centuries. There is a reason why these works speak to us all over the course of generations. Your live streamed Orcas Island performances are sublime, and I encourage everyone to try at least one, if not the full series. And the Miró Quartet will have other wonderful online offerings upcoming. This music heals the soul and enchants the ears. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing (and hearing) what the Quartet will do during 2020 and beyond!
With regard to finding an acupuncturist for musicians, John, I wonder if you could share some advice. To wit: if a professional musician is in Austin, of course they can come see me if they’re interested in working with an acupuncturist who has a dedicated specialty area in musician health. But what about an artist who is not in Austin? Can you suggest a question or two that the musician could ask an acupuncturist at the first visit? What questions would you ask if you were looking for an acupuncturist?
John: As I mentioned, double check that any acupuncturist you go see is fully licensed and has appropriate credentials. Ask if they have ever worked on a professional musician before, and if you are nervous, tell them about your concerns and ask if they can start slowly. Better yet, find a tui na specialist and have no needles at all for your first treatments!
Dr. Paula: Thank you, John, for these insights. I hope that musicians will be inspired to try acupuncture, traditional Chinese bodywork, or herbal medicine after reading your words here. Meantime, for anyone who wants to bring some of the magic of Beethoven and the Miró Quartet into their home, I highly encourage you to check them out online. There are two more weeks left of the current live-stream and if you, dear reader, want to see the ones you missed, you can buy a festival pass and access all of the performances until August 15th. If you’d like to just want to see one, there are individual passes available through the concluding performance on August 8th. And do bookmark the Quartet’s website so that you can keep up with their performances in the upcoming year ahead.
It is a big shift to need to stay home as much as we all do at this point, but having healthy, enriching, soul-soothing activities to enjoy can certainly ease the sting of it all. These live streams speak to so many. Long-time fans of the Quartet are loving the intimacy of the performances and the ability to ask questions and connect in real time. This method of delivery can also serve as inspiration to up-and-coming musicians when they see that yes, an online performance like this really is a valid way to share the cultural treasures of classical music with an audience. And people unfamiliar with classical music but who might want to expand their horizons and find online gems will also love these performances. As challenging as it may be to stay at home now, there are some silver linings.
I’m so excited to see what John and the Quartet will be doing over the course of the upcoming year, and I look forward to continuing to work with professional musicians as a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.
We all need to learn to adjust at present. There’s no reason why we can’t learn to thrive, nonetheless.
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.