Concert musicians use dope to stay calm during performance

June 4th, 2008 - 3:48 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jun 4 (ANI): Its not only athletes who use dope during performance, but also lesser competitive individuals like the frock coated musicians playing Brahms and Liszt.

According to Helmut Moller, head of Berlins Kurt Singer Institute for Musical Health, there are quite a number of substance abusers among musicians, who take drugs to get rid of their stage fright.

Between 25 and 30 per cent of musicians regularly take tablets or alcohol to combat performance anxiety, Times Online quoted him, as saying.

Professor Moller is not talking about the usual rock and rollers, but about the plaid shirt, black coat and tie-wearing musicians, who guzzle beta-blockers - medication that is usually prescribed for patients with heart problems.

Concert musicians have been able to keep their substance abuse under wraps for quite sometime, and drugs that they use are nowhere the same as those used in competitive sport.

Substance abuse by concert musician only came to light when a horn player from the Berlin Philharmonic confessed in a new documentary film to needing drink before performing.

You go for tranquillisers or beer. With me it was beer, said Klaus Wallendorf, who had been advised by his teacher to drink a beer if he could not reach a note.

Then you drink two beers and it goes smoothly so you think you should do it all the time, Mr Wallendorf, spoke in Thomas Grubes film Tour of Asia, which accompanies the Philharmonic and its chief conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, on a groundbreaking 2005 tour.

Wallendorfs confession triggered a debate in the German musical world, and other horn players admitted to having a drinking problem.

The tenor Roland Wagenfuhrer said that he was seriously worried about the use of drugs by opera singers, and British violinist Nigel Kennedy, on tour in Germany, chipped in to the debate, declaring that cocaine and marijuana are as popular among my colleagues as in other social circles.

Kennedys main objection was that drugs lead to half-dead performances - beta-blockers, tranquillisers - they may stop you making mistakes but they dont do much besides.

Claudia Spahn, Professor of Psychosomatic Medicine at Freiburg University, says that there is now a black market in beta-blockers in the orchestra pits.

The player next to you may know someone who can get it, or a relative with a heart problem can get the stuff put on his prescriptions, she said.

Brilliant musicians as diverse as the cellist Pablo Casals and the pianists Arthur Rubinstein and Glenn Gould, as well as the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, were seriously afflicted by stage fright. The tenor Caruso suffered until the end of his career, and contemporaries remember that he always smelt of orange essence, which he believed would calm his nerves.

With more and more musicians coming out and confessing to needing some form of substance to boost their confidence and calm their nerves, Gerald Mertens, head of the 9,000-strong German orchestral association, is urging music academies to teach not only notation and technique but also relaxation strategies. (ANI)

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