North Texas Daily

Music student promotes performing arts health through ELDOA exercise

Music student promotes performing arts health through ELDOA exercise

Music student promotes performing arts health through ELDOA exercise
February 23
13:00 2023

At any sports game, it is common to see a team of athletic trainers, physical therapists or even emergency medical staff ­waiting on call for players in need of immediate attention.

Physical and psychological health are important and recognized assets to athletes, who train and condition the bodies they rely on to be able to perform. Musicians depend on their bodies’ condition in the same way, yet the health risks they face are largely ignored by those in and outside the industry.

Hollie Dzierzanowski, university performing arts health doctoral student and certified Elongation Longitudinaux Avec Decoaption Osteo Articulaire trainer, wants to help musicians and non-musicians alike prevent and manage pain and injury.

“In music, there’s this culture of playing through the pain, which is really harmful,” Dzierzanowski said.

Dzierzanowski studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she focused on viola performance. During this time, she was injured from playing her instrument and had difficulty managing her injury while continuing viola practice.

While in a Pilates class, an instructor introduced an ELDOA posture that targeted the specific area she was having pain in.

“At first I was like, ‘What the heck is ELDOA?’” Dzierzanowski said. “I just learned I was having myofascial pain, so I had started researching it, and when the instructor told me we were doing a myofascial stretch, I was like, ‘What a great synchronicity.’”

ELDOA is “postural self-normalizing techniques designed for widening the space within a chosen articulation,” according to ELDOA Method. As Dzierzanowski continued to practice the recommended posture, she began to feel a new sense of physical relief. Soon after, she decided to further pursue ELDOA exercise.

Dzierzanowski was later accepted to the university’s doctoral music program to study viola performance. The university is home to the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health, which was founded in 1999 as a collaboration between the faculty of the College of Music and UNT Health Sciences Center.

ELDOA instructor Hollie Dzierzanowski poses during her class at the Pohl Recreation Center on Feb. 7, 2023. Marco Barrera

The only program of its kind, it offers healthcare specifically targeted to musicians and other performers, such as actors and dancers, as well as a doctoral program in performing arts health.

“I didn’t know that the [performing arts health] program was here, so it was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Dzierzanowski said. “I’m just so grateful that I ended up here.”

Kris Chesky, College of Music professor and co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health, said performing arts health is under-researched because it is uncomfortable for others to talk about.

“Music educators have been advocating music for kids ever since it was brought into public schools in the United States in the 1870s, so the whole idea of even just acknowledging that a child might have some negative consequences from being in band is really hard for music educators to accept, let alone figure out how to deal with it,” Chesky said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dzierzanowski used her free time to become trained and certified in body mapping and ELDOA to help manage her own pain.

She traveled to New Orleans and Los Angeles, two major ELDOA hubs, to take training and certification courses as soon as she could. She wanted to use the exercise as research for her dissertation.

Dzierzanowski is one of the only certified ELDOA instructors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and teaches a class twice a week at the Pohl Recreational Center.

Her dissertation research focuses on occupational, physical and psychological health for viola players — whom Dzierzanowski said are often “the butt of the joke” among an orchestra. Her research is the first violist study of its kind.

Nabeel Zuhdi, university performing arts health doctoral student and guitar player, sustained a playing-related injury in 2017. This limited how much he could play his instrument. He said if he knew then what he knows now about performing arts health, he would not have been injured.

Dzierzanowski and Zuhdi have both been invited to present their work at the Performing Arts Medicine Association this summer. Dzierzanowski will present her research on occupational health for violists, and Zuhdi will present his research on musician identity.

“This type of research has the potential to transform the music discipline from its current state to another one characterized by much more robust ways of gaining knowledge and teaching it,” Zuhdi said. “This knowledge includes preventing health problems associated with music practice. Musicians’ occupational health, in part, is related to what musicians do and how they do it.”

Featured Image ELDOA instructor Hollie Dzierzanowski poses during her class at the Pohl Recreation Center on Feb. 7, 2023. Marco Barrera

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Kaitlynn Hutchins

Kaitlynn Hutchins

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