As a former dancer and educator, Lori Raphael has seen firsthand how injuries can jeopardize a career. “One of the things that gets in the way of a long career is this belief that musicians and dancers should never get injured,” says Raphael, whose son, Ben Merliss (BM ’14, Jazz Bass), graduated from Peabody. This assumption can prevent performers from seeking treatment early on, when they first need it.
To support the health of young musicians and dancers, Raphael and her husband, Mike Hemmer, have made a generous $250,000 gift to support Peabody’s performing arts and medicine program. The program includes the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine, a collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Johns Hopkins Rehabilitation Network’s (JHRN) Clinic for Performing Artists at the Peabody Institute, as well as initiatives aimed at injury prevention and research.
The JHRN Clinic for Performing Artists treats musicians and dancers with performance-related pain or injuries by providing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and hand therapy. The central location of the clinic, which is housed on campus in the Peabody Wellness Center, is convenient for students — and also intentional in reducing any stigma associated with getting care. “You’re not going to get sent off campus if you have a repetitive stress injury to get your ‘secret’ therapy somewhere,” says Raphael, who also has a background in recreation therapy. “It is going to be right on campus, and we’re going to acknowledge that to have a lifetime of productive performance, you are going to need to know how to care for yourself.”
The performing arts and medicine program at Peabody also focuses on injury-prevention education. A workshop series called Peak Performance Fundamentals trains students in how to monitor and protect their physical and mental health as performers, and the online Playing Well curriculum focuses on the anatomy of movement, common injuries and their treatments, and prevention and rehabilitation strategies.
The performing arts and medicine program is one component of the work that Peabody is doing through its Breakthrough Curriculum to prepare students to have long careers in the 21st century. “Peabody has a much broader notion of what a graduate from a conservatory can be or do, so the school is helping students understand that they need to be entrepreneurial and they need to have some business skills,” says Hemmer, who spent his career as a lawyer for airlines and railroads such as Union Pacific Railroad.
But it is the performing arts and medicine program that has the potential to change the culture in the field surrounding performers and injuries. Adds Raphael, “We hope that Peabody’s leadership with this program will inspire other educational and performance organizations to focus on the mental and physical health of their artists. The culture of performing arts is changing, and Peabody is leading the way.”
— Jennifer Walker