DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The University of North Texas College of Music and Dr. Kris Chesky, director of UNT's Texas Center for Music and Medicine, have earned the 2010 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award in the Services sector from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA).

The award, presented at the 35th Annual Hearing Conservation Conference Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla., was given to UNT and Chesky for raising awareness of the importance of hearing loss prevention in musicians.

Chesky and researchers at UNT's Texas Center for Music and Medicine have been studying ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss from music exposure and discovering ways people can save their hearing at an early age, thus improving their overall health and quality of life.

"Receiving this award from NIOSH is a high honor, and we are so pleased that our work is raising awareness about this issue on a national level," Chesky said. "I believe that every person learning about music in the United States, from early grade school through college, must be taught to understand that music is a sound source capable of harming hearing.  This issue needs to be brought to the attention of everyone, particularly to those that direct music ensembles in colleges and public schools across the nation."

UNT takes steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in musicians by measuring sound levels produced during instructional activities, educating music students of the possible consequences of excessive exposures, and advising them of resources to protect their hearing. Ensemble directors and teachers discuss noise-induced hearing loss and prevention methods with their students.

In addition, Chesky developed and teaches a course, "Occupational Health: Lessons from Music," for undergraduate students of any major. The class focuses on musculoskeletal, hearing and mental health issues associated with musical occupations.

The NIOSH awards were given for hearing loss prevention programs in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors to honor individuals or organizations for innovation in hearing loss prevention and dedication in fostering and implementing new and unique advances in the prevention of hearing loss.

From left: Dr. Shrawan Kumar, Dr. Rita Patterson, Eri Yoshimura, Sam Durham, Dr. George Kondraske, Dr. Kris CheskyIn February 2008, a collaborative research grant was received by the UNT Health Sciences Center  and the Texas Center for Music and Medicine for a proposed study of the hand kinematics of piano players. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board in May 2008 and is currently  in progress.

The study is being performed by Dr. Kris Chesky, Dr. Rita Patterson, Dr. Shrawan Kumar, Dr. George Kondraske and Eri Yoshimura in order to better understand musculoskeletal problems in the upper extremities of musicians, specifically piano players. Many pianists suffer from these problems  and the nature and causes of these problems are not well understood, while ways to prevent or  alleviate these problems are even less studied or reported. For this purpose, the study is measuring posture of the hands and force on the keys while playing different intervals and volumes on the piano.


Fitted with motion-capture markers, graduate student Yoshiko Shamoto performs the exercise in the study.Each of the 30 subjects are being asked to fill out a questionnaire about their musical background and other piano-related characteristics. Measurements of their upper extremities are taken, such as forearm length, hand volume, hand span, et cetera. Subjects are then attached with small reflective markers on the back of their hands, elbows, shoulders and forehead that will be used to track their movement with several motion-capture cameras as they play. Force sensors are placed under several keys to measure the amount of force a subject uses while playing.



A screenshot of the motion-capture data.Finally, the subject performs a 10 minute exercise that involves playing 5ths, 8ths and 9ths on the piano at varying dynamic levels to the beat of a metronome. The performance is recorded by video  camcorder and data is taken by a computer through the force sensors and motion-capture cameras.  After playing, each subject is asked a few more short questions.

Through the observation of movement, force, and posture of the hands while playing piano, the investigators of this study hope that it may eventually help pianists understand the origins of piano-related pain as well as direct the development of pedagogic, technical or ergonomic interventions.

DENTON (UNT), Texas - The University of North Texas College of Music has secured $60,000 from organizations within the music industry including the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that awards the Grammys, to develop a nationally implemented health communication module for music schools across the country.

A $30,000 grant has been received from NARAS, together with $15,000 from the International Music Products Association and $15,000 from the International Foundation for Music Research. These grants are in addition to $20,000 previously received from the National Endowment for the Arts.

During the next year, the Texas Center for Music and Medicine will organize task force groups in four areas — physical health, mental health, audiological health, and vocal health, - to create core content for the communication module. The task force members will present that content at a conference organized by the Texas Center for Music and Medicine, the Performing Arts Medical Association and the UNT Health Science Center Office of Professional and Continuing Education in Fall 2004.

"This funding ensures that we will be able to draw together top scholars in their field to discuss musician's health and create a communication module that really makes music students and teachers aware that while music is a critical, positive part of our culture, there are risks associated with performing music just as there are risks associated with playing sports," said Kris Chesky, research director for the center.

Music, medical and allied health professionals from around the nation will gather at the "Health Promotion in Schools of Music" conference to create the module, which will inform college students about the health risks associated with music.

The National Association of Schools of Music, which accredits more than 500 schools of music, recently added a recommendation to its accreditation guidelines encouraging member schools to provide health information that promotes awareness about and prevention of performance injuries. The NASM is serving as a resource and consultant on the project.

Details about the conference dates, location and program can be found at

Directed by Drs. Kris Chesky and Bernard Rubin, the Texas Center for Music and Medicine was established to study, treat and prevent disorders related to learning and performing music. The center comprises educators, researchers and clinicians within the UNT System, including faculty from the College of Music, the College of Arts and Sciences and the UNT Health Science Center, who conduct interdisciplinary research and provide clinical treatment to musicians in the Metroplex.

The center's clinical and research programs address health issues related to hearing, physical problems and mental health. Ongoing findings support the concern for these problem areas and show that preventative measures can be effective at reducing risk.

As a result, the UNT College of Music expanded its mission to educate students about the physical concerns with performing and teaching music. The college now prides itself on its health awareness and prevention programs, specialized clinical services, and research.

"By making this commitment, the college has taken the first steps toward a cultural shift in how schools of music think about teaching and performing," said Dr. James Scott, dean of the College of Music. "Because we don't usually think about musician's health as being at risk, this is an important first step, but still just that - a small step in bringing about industry-wide belief changes."

The College of Music encourages its students to take advantage of the center's clinical resources, educational programs, and research initiatives. The college also offers courses in music and medicine for graduate students and has a unique music and medicine optional related field of study for students seeking a master's or doctorate of musical arts degree.

"We believe music is a critically important and immeasurably valuable part of our society. That's why we are engaged in preparing our students for successful careers in music as performers, teachers, scholars and composers," Scott said.

"We also want our students to have long careers and to be informed music educators, so we pay attention to the effects and potential harm that can be caused by the stress of demanding too much of the body or using it incorrectly. After all, a musician's body plays a role equal to the instrument in the ability to make music," he said.