Karin Boisvert, M.D.

I am a family doctor in practice in Joliet, a small town near Montreal. I have been playing the piano since the age of five. At the time of writing, I am 28 years old. I participated in piano competitions, but had to stop taking lessons when I entered medical school, although I have continued to play. I started taking lessons again two years ago; I have had more time to play since being in private practice as a doctor.

When I resumed lessons, it was with my childhood teacher. Since the last time I had taken lessons with her, as a child, she had been studying the Taubman approach and had changed her way of playing. She introduced me to the approach, saying that she thought it would help me to play better. She knew I wanted to play big pieces, and I was eager to improve my playing, and open to what she wanted to show me about the technique. I have found that it has helped me a lot as a pianist and has enabled me to play more difficult pieces than I could before, even when I was performing and playing in competitions. Since applying Taubman’s principles to my playing, arpeggios, for example, have become very easy for me (prior to this, they had always been difficult), and the quality of my sound has improved greatly.

Attending the Institute’s Summer Symposium, I discovered that a lot of people came because they were injured. I hadn’t realized that the Taubman approach could be used to cure playing-related injuries. As a doctor, this was very interesting to me. Many musicians’ injuries are caused by repetitive movements in uncomfortable positions. The traditional medical approach is to relieve the pain with painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy and rest. Often stopping the problematic movement is enough to take care of the pain. But you can’t tell a musician to stop playing without destroying his life. Some other approach must be found, to ensure that the musician can continue to play, but without the physical problem.

I don’t know of any other approach that addresses the problem of pianists’ pain and injuries like the Taubman approach does. This is an approach that goes to the root of the matter: the problem movements that cause the injury. I have sent a lot of construction workers, and other laborers to occupational therapists to try to root out the problem movements when they do masonry work, for example. But until discovering the Taubman approach, I had never come across a physical therapist or occupational therapist for pianists. This work is a kind of physical therapy, because the focus is on correct alignment and healthy, coordinate movements that will not hurt you.

Karin Boisvert, MD (Joliet, Quebec, Canada)