Health & Safety

The Arkansas Tech University Department of Music is committed to the continued health and safety of its students, faculty, and staff members. The development of safe habits for practicing, performing, and listening is vital to prevent serious hearing, vocal, and musculoskeletal injuries. If you are experiencing pain, discomfort, anxiety, or have general health related concerns, please see a health professional at the Health and Wellness Center in Doc Bryan right away. Due to the nature of our field, hearing conservation is of particular concern. Complimentary ear plugs for students, faculty, and staff are available in the Music Office, Witherspoon 107.

  • Hearing health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician.
  • Your hearing can be permanently damaged by loud sounds, including music. Technically, this is called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Such danger is constant.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is generally preventable. You must avoid overexposure to loud sounds, especially for long periods of time.
  • The closer you are to the source of a loud sound, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing mechanisms.
  • Sounds over 85 dB (your typical vacuum cleaner) in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing.
  • Risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound or loudness intensity and duration.
  • Recommended maximum daily exposure times (NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are as follows:

85 dB (vacuum cleaner, MP3 player at 1/3 volume) – 8 hours

90 dB (blender, hair dryer) – 2 hours

94 dB (MP3 player at 1/2 volume) – 1 hour

100 dB (MP3 player at full volume, lawnmower) – 15 minutes

110 dB (rock concert, power tools) – 2 minutes

120 dB (jet planes at take-off) – without ear protection, sound damage is almost immediate

  • Certain behaviors (controlling volume levels in practice and rehearsal, avoiding noisy environments, turning down the volume) reduce your risk of hearing loss. Be mindful of those MP3 earbuds. See chart above.
  • The use of earplugs and earmuffs helps to protect your hearing health.
  • Day-to-day decisions can impact your hearing health, both now and in the future. Since sound exposure occurs in and out of school, you also need to learn more and take care of your own hearing health on a daily, even hourly basis.
  • It is important to follow basic hearing health guidelines.
  • It is also important to study this issue and learn more.
  • If you are concerned about your personal hearing health, talk with a medical professional. If you are concerned about your hearing health in relationship to your program of study, consult the appropriate contact person at your institution.
  • This information is provided by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). For more information, check out the other NASMPAMA hearing health documents, located on the NASM Web site at the URL linked below.

Maintaining Health and Safety with the marching band involves three primary concerns:

  • Physical safety associated with marching
  • Hearing safety
  • Hydration

The marching rehearsal, as with any athletic endeavor, needs adequate warm-up time in which all students are taken through a regimen to stretch all major muscle groups. Throughout the season, workout safety strategies are presented in order to teach students how to execute the various drills safely. Much of this is done by student leaders who undergo training sessions taught by the Director of Bands, and follow best practices used by top drum corps and university bands nationally.

A new asphalt practice field (built in 2012) virtually eliminated most marching injuries by providing a consistently flat surface, adequate traction, and yard lines and hash marks identical to those on the main marching field.

For numerous reasons, including the protection of students’ hearing, the marching band rehearses almost exclusively outdoors on the new marching field located on the north side of the campus. The Department recommends that students wear hearing protection, and provides basic hearing protection for all students and faculty. In addition, hearing safety is discussed often with the marching band, and efforts are made to put space between students during rehearsals for this reason. During football games, the band is located in stands on the south end zone of the field, and their setup during games is designed both to achieve optimal sonic balance and output for the audience, and to keep the wind players shielded from the loudest percussion sounds. All band members are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings in regard to volume and to maintain adequate hearing protection.

Hydration is perhaps the most important element of safety for bands in the South. This is addressed in a number of ways. First, the band observes NCAA guidelines on the progression of students from the early, light workouts to the more difficult workouts by acclimating our students to the heat for the first few days of summer band. At the beginning of the season, students are taken through the basic NCAA guidelines on replacement of fluids lost through sweat. The marching band adheres to the suggestion of 8 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. These “water breaks” take place on the field, with water and electrolyte-replacement drinks being provided during rehearsals. The storage building that is located adjacent to the marching field has running water for refilling jugs that are set out on tables during rehearsals. Students are explicitly instructed that they are to stop working out and immediately get water if they are experiencing any of the symptoms of heat stress as outlined every day during rehearsal.

In the event that a student experiences heat stress, they are immediately relocated to an air-conditioned building that is immediately adjacent to the marching field. In the event of a more severe heat-related event, ATU Public Safety is contacted and they coordinate with 911 dispatch for instructions. An EMS (Fire Department) unit is located less than ¼ mile from the field.

Arkansas Tech University recently purchased for the Marching Band a HeartSine Samaritan PAD, an automated external defibrillator (AED) that analyzes the heart rhythm and delivers an electrical shock to victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in order to restore the heart to normal rhythm.

Symptoms indicating Repetitive Strain Injury appear most frequently in the piano and instrumental studios of the Department of Music, and education about preventative measures usually occurs in the corresponding applied lessons.

Few collegiate pianists complete a baccalaureate program of study without experiencing some version of the symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), most often in the form of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinitis in the hand, wrist, or elbow. All Piano Faculty are sensitive and experienced in dealing with these issues, and address proper posture and hand position, strengthening exercises, and technical development as preventative measures for RSI in all Applied Piano lessons and in the Class Piano sequence. Careful attention to all of these issues is also given in Piano Pedagogy, particularly with regard to strategies for preventing these injuries from occurring through the establishment of a healthy technical approach from the beginning of piano study.

The Instrumental studios, as well as the Instrumental Methods classes (Brass Instruments, Percussion Instruments, Stringed Instruments, Double- and Single-Reed Woodwinds) all address RSI in their own ways through the careful instruction in proper playing techniques. Brass playing has the added danger of injuries to the embouchure (which can lead, in extreme cases, to Focal Dystonia), so these studios give special attention to proper technical preparation through the playing of long tones, lip flexibility exercises, and careful pacing of the warm-up and daily playing routine. These considerations carry through to the scheduling of Instrumental rehearsals and performances, so that students’ playing mechanisms do not undergo unnecessary strain.

All Instrumental and Vocal Music Education students are exposed to discussion on the prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury in Principles of Conducting that includes possibilities for shoulder and elbow injury specifically related to that activity. The presentation of physical conducting techniques includes strategies on the utilization of proper muscles and proper technique to de-emphasize the use of larger muscle groups that would lead to shoulder damage. Also, a detailed discussion of the injuries possible to the elbow (popularly known as “tennis elbow”) through prolonged wrist motion is discussed. Assessments included on the conducting rubric are designed to eliminate those bad habits that could aggravate these issues. Education on how to care for these injuries is also presented in the Principles of Conducting course.

Vocal Health is, of course, the primary concern of the Vocal and Choral side of the Department of Music, and is addressed throughout the vocal curriculum, including Applied Voice lessons, Class Voice, all of the choirs, Secondary Choral Methods I and II, and Vocal Literature and Pedagogy. The Voice Faculty are unified in their efforts to promote healthy vocal production for students and faculty alike, and to establish good vocal habits and a healthy vocal technique in every student.

The Voice and Choral faculty focus upon the following areas in maintaining and teaching Vocal Health:

  • Proper and adequate warm-up in the choirs
  • Healthy vocal production through the development of a solid vocal technique that students may carry through the rest of their lives as educators and performers.
  • Recognizing that the voice is a part of the body, which must be maintained through proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.
  • Maintaining healthy vocal production through the understanding of the balance of rehearsal and practice time with appropriate vocal rest.

In addition, other practices are in place that assist in preventing and treating injuries to the voice. Overall, the Voice Faculty tends to be rather conservative in student repertoire selection, basing decisions upon a careful assessment of each student’s current vocal needs, and delaying more challenging repertoire until a solid technique has been established. Healthy vocal habits are reinforced in weekly studio classes for all Voice majors, and if signs of vocal distress begin to appear, the faculty maintain knowledge of local and area Ear Nose and Throat physicians, to whom students can be quickly referred.

All musicians must deal with some form of Performance Anxiety at some point in their performing and teaching careers, and thus, it is addressed in various ways throughout the Music curricula.

One of the most important tools in dealing with Performance Anxiety is helping the students become accustomed to the anxiety of being in front of an audience, and the Music students at Arkansas Tech perform as much as possible in a controlled, safe environment. The department typically gives some  250 performances per year, both on- and off-campus, formal and informal.  Of these, approximately 38 were twice-weekly Student Recitals in which each Music Major, except first-semester freshmen, must perform once a semester.

In addition, the Department has put in place additional measures to help students cope with performance anxiety at the studio level. Most applied studios have their students meet regularly during the semester in studio classes, in which students have the opportunity to meet with their peers and discuss the particular challenges of their instrument, practice techniques, self-discipline, and all of the many elements that combine to produce a successful performance.

The Department of Music is located in Witherspoon Hall. The building is open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, with special swipe card access available until 11:00 p.m. to music majors, students enrolled in night classes in the building, and students enrolled in large music ensembles. Swipe card access is granted through the office of Student Accounts after submission by the Head of the Department of Music and authorization by the Dean of Arts and Humanities. Senior music students serve as Witherspoon Building Monitor from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m. and for 8 hours each on Saturdays and Sundays to ensure that students have safe access to the building, and that equipment and instruments are protected. These students work in tandem with the Office of Public Safety to provide a safe and secure environment for students, faculty, and staff. In addition, Emergency Call Phones are located outside all buildings on campus, so that anyone may report a concern to Public Safety at any time

Arkansas Tech University also has an early warning text messaging system as an additional means of communicating with the University community during emergency situations. Students who register for the service receive a text message warning in the event of a serious campus emergency. Signing up for the system is optional, but is strongly encouraged.

Office of Public Safety