New Center Promotes Wellness through Arts Curriculum

Posted: November 5, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

William Reeder, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), has a habit of worrying about what will happen to his students after they graduate. “My vision for the college is that the day after graduation, our students are confident about their next step,” says Reeder.

CVPA’s and Reeder’s first year has been about putting programs in place to make this a reality. The realization of one of Reeder’s dreams is the new Center for Arts and Wellness, the first of its kind anywhere. While most dance programs normally emphasize injury prevention, the center plans to incorporate wellness into the whole arts curriculum by serving as a support network and emphasizing stress management and performance psychology in addition to injury prevention–with the hope that the result will be long and successful careers for all Mason artists.

“Performing in front of an audience is not easy, and musicians, dancers, and actors have the potential for injury just like athletes,” says David Sternbach, research professor and founding director of the center.

With degrees in music, psychology, and clinical social work, Sternbach brings a unique perspective to the center. A professional musician for more than 25 years, Sternbach has been a solo recitalist and played the French horn in symphony and opera orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. His work in the field of performance psychology reflects many years of research and the development of an approach that is a synthesis of Western psychology, Eastern meditative practices, sports psychology, and imagery. Over the past 16 years, he has published more than 80 articles on health-related issues for professional musicians, covering such topics as performance anxiety, stress management onstage and off, substance abuse, and the danger of hearing loss.

Sternbach and Reeder met at the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C., where Reeder was executive director and Sternbach presented a yearlong series of workshops he had designed for music teachers and performers on health and safety issues. The center is an expansion of some of the work he did there.

The center is housed within the Department of Music, and department chair James Gardner also serves as a center director. Emily Berry Bodoh, the center’s development associate, is an example of the artist the center wants to nurture. She is completing her M.F.A. in dance at George Mason, which includes a “thesis” performance of her own choreography by her own dance company, while studying to receive her Laban Movement Analysis certification at the University of Maryland and performing in the GMU Dance Company–at the same time building relationships for the center and helping pull together programs.

In just a few short months, the center already has shown progress. One of the center’s first on-campus programs was a musician health fair, Keeping Yourself in Tune, held in September and offered in cooperation with the D.C. chapter of the Recording Academy and the MusiCares Foundation. A pilot program between CVPA and Inova Health Systems is also under development. The program will bring students into the hospital to provide performances and visual art to enhance the healing environment. Students who participate will undergo training that deals with arts in a healing context.

For more information about the center and upcoming programs, call (703) 993-8625.

Write to at