Report from DVS “Health week” workshops

In the past week, the DVS has taken to the new online medium with a “doubleheader” of workshops related to avoiding / reducing / treating the long term health issues associated with viola playing.

The first workshop, poetically titled “Finding Fabulous Freedom (with a viola in your hand)” was brought to us by Ásdis Valdimarsdóttir, with insights derived and developed from Body Mapping and Alexander Technique.

Ásdis worked through a number of examples relating to posture, left and right arm motions, based on mechanical principles of (skeletal and muscular) anatomy. She demonstrated clearly awkward and potentially unhealthy practices (some of which, sadly, are dangerously close to certain “style schools” of violin/viola technique) compared to natural and mechanically balanced alternatives. Accessories to her presentation included various illustrations from slides, and even a good old-fashioned dummy skeleton to help make her points. She also got the crowd in motion with exercises, with and without a viola. It was quite a sight to behold all participants in their tiny digital viewports performing these exercises!

The second workshop followed one week later, presented by Laura Kok: “How to deal with injuries – Medical empowerment for viola players“. Laura is an orthopaedic surgeon specialised in prevention and treatment of musicians’ injuries, and she has completed a full conservatory viola degree as well.

She gave a very interesting overview of the various health issues commonly seen for instrumental musicians (and violists in particular), ranging from physical to “psychosocial” issues – including a very telling comparison of the parallels and differences between musicians and athletes. In particular, athletes have much better medical and psychological support in general, and in the musical world it is even somewhat of a taboo to admit to or even discuss injuries (this last point was brought up by Ásdis as well).

Laura highlighted the orchestra musician in particular as someone who has a very low degree of personal influence on his/her working environment – being consistently dictated when, what, and how to play. This lack of control puts the musician at considerable risk of stress, burnout and injuries. And a musician’s career is much longer than an athlete’s, a full lifetime of sustained “wear-down” of their bodies. Not to mention stress related symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, etc.

Both workshops were widely appreciated by those who attended.

For those of you who missed it: If you are interested in more details about these workshops, please contact us at – we will gladly send you more information, including links to recordings of the workshops.

This was the first time we tried to do interactive workshops online via zoom. During these workshops we had as many as 56 participants simultaneously online in the session, logging in even from overseas (USA, UK, etc.). This immediately verified to us that we have a truly international reach – so different from the physical and inherently “local” events of pre-COVID times.

Kristofer Skaug, DVS