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LVC Student Research Leads to New Musician Wellness Concentration

Alyssa Lahoda

Alyssa Lahoda’s first-year research paper sparked by her passion turned into four years of inspiring many on LVC’s campus. Three years later, this enthusiasm culminated in a new Musician Wellness concentration that will positively impact LVC music students for years to come. 

Lahoda, who graduated with a degree in music (concentrations in violin and music theory) and a second degree in music business in May 2020, used her struggles with music performance anxiety (MPA) and physical wellness as the springboard for the research that went into the new concentration. The idea stemmed from an independent study project with Dr. Renee Norris, professor of music and past chair of the department.  

“Dr. Norris was the first person I consulted about integrating MPA into the Music Department curriculum, and from the beginning, she was extremely encouraging,” said Lahoda. “By my senior year, she suggested that I go for Departmental Honors since all I needed was an Independent Study credit. 

“At the first meeting of my independent study, we brainstormed ways to continue events and my efforts to integrate MPA and wellness into the music curriculum after I graduate. She suggested creating the proposal for a new class and concentration.”

Through her independent study, Lahoda’s contributions to the proposal included:

  • writing the description, goals, and student learning objectives for the new course 
  • creating an outline of the syllabus and books to be used for the new course
  • meeting with physical therapy and psychology professors to discuss which current classes should be included in the concentration
  • finalizing the list of required classes and suggested electives
  • producing a department-wide survey to get a sense of how many students were interested in these topics
  • creating a final presentation highlighting the research and explaining the plan for the new course and concentration

Dr. Norris’ inserted Lahoda’s work into official documents and managed the logistics of getting a new concentration approved through the College faculty. 

“Alyssa made the case in her research that many music students feel uncomfortable sharing their physical and mental challenges around performing and practicing. A significant goal of this concentration is to destigmatize these challenges so that students may healthily focus on improving as musicians,” said Norris.

The concentration, which will be available starting this Fall, includes one newly-created course—Music Performance Anxiety and Musician Wellness—that will be team-taught by music faculty and a physical therapist.

Interdepartmental cooperation related to Musician Wellness is not new. Throughout her years at LVC, Lahoda hosted various workshops, presentations, and activities ranging from general topics such as what music performance anxiety is to sub-topics within MPA and wellness. The events were open to students of all majors and received support from numerous faculty across campus.

Here is a list of some of the events Lahoda hosted:

  • Showing a documentary, Composed
  • Practice Performances
  • Musician Etiquette (with Dr. Rebecca Lister, associate professor of music,  Carmean Professor of Music, voice)
  • Creative Story Writing to Music (with Dr. Holly Wendt, director of creative writing and associate professor of English)
  • Musician Wellness (with Dr. Mike Fink, chair and associate professor of physical therapy)

She also taught a class at LVC’s summer music camp for high school students and participated in The Examined Life Conference and Symposium on Inclusive Excellence.

“When I started my research and workshops my first year, I never thought it would grow into an entire concentration,” said Lahoda, who gives special thanks to Norris and Dr. Robert Machado for their help and support.

“It is amazing that I could shed light on a topic that I became so passionate about. From the beginning, my two main goals were to normalize conversation on these topics between students, teachers, and colleagues, and encourage a proactive rather than reactive approach to self-care as musicians. By adding the Musician Wellness concentration, we are taking a huge step toward both goals.”

Lahoda teaches private violin, viola, and cello lessons, and virtually interns with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in their Corporate Sponsors Department. 

“I really enjoy expanding my knowledge on the behind-the-scenes of a major orchestra, as well as connecting with people who are clearly passionate about music,” said Lahoda. “The BSO has been heavily affected by the pandemic, but are working around its obstacles very strategically and creatively so that there is still a constant flow of music.”

Lahoda is still actively presenting on MPA and Wellness and has shared her presentation with the Berks Youth Choir, International Intermuse Music Institute and Festival (IIMIF), and several high school music departments.