The Kurt Singer Institute for Music Physiology and Musicians’ Health (KSI) was founded jointly in May 2002 by the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin (HfM). Today, the Institute strives to enhance the health of professional musicians at both institutions.
With an interdisciplinary team consisting of medical specialists from various fields, psychologists, certified therapists, and teachers, the Institute strives to prevent and alleviate occupational ailments caused by stress associated with musical activity. The KSI works closely with the interdisciplinary Excellence Center in Musikermedizin (Medicine for Musicians) at the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin (BCMM), which consists of experts from various medical fields who have specialized in treating musicians. The activities of the KSI encompass the following areas:
In the framework of instruction at the HfM and the UdK, the KSI imparts to students the physical and mental basics of healthful musical activity and musical practice. At the same time, a comprehensive programme of courses on musician health in areas of physical training and kinematics, training in body perception (Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, breathing technique), as well as mental and performance training, serve to expand the range of expressive possibilities in music-making, to enhance a sense of security in performance situations, and to prevent health disturbances.
Clinical research at the KSI searches for the causes of occupational ailments that affect musicians, as well as for ways to optimize the effectiveness of the diagnostic procedures and therapies associated with them. A special focus is on the area of neurological movement disorders, in particular focal dystonia, a frequent affliction of musicians. A second research focus at the KSI is on the influence of music and music-making on the health and development of children and adults. Additional research topics are found in the areas of the cognitive neurosciences, the physiology of posture and movement, as well as in the physiology of hearing, voice, and speech.
Our research projects are for the most part funded by third parties, and are carried out in collaboration with numerous national and international partners. Cooperative agreements exist among others with centers of medicine for musicians (Institute of Music Physiology, Berlin Centre for the Musicians' Medicine (BCMM) and Musicians’ Medicine Hannover), and with university neurology clinics. Research results are integrated into the teaching programs.
At the Charité, Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Schmidt (a neurologist and trained concert pianist), who heads the KSI and the BCMM, offers general medical consulting hours for musicians who suffer from occupational health problems or from performance-related psychological difficulties. The consulting hours are open free of charge to students and teachers from the HfM and the UdK, as well as to other musicians who have been referred, and involves the diagnosis of and counseling and therapy for occupational ailments. If necessary for specific problems, musicians may be referred by the BCMM to specialists, who can hopefully provide optimal care to musicians in need of assistance.