Four Marshall University faculty members have been named directors of the university’s Center for Wellness in the Arts.
To help manage the momentum behind the center for performing and visual artists, co-founders Nicole Perrone, associate professor of theatre, and Dr. Henning Vauth, associate professor of music, were appointed directors along with Dr. Karen McNealy, chair and program director of the Department of Communications Disorders, and Dr. Mark Timmons, assistant professor of athletic training.
Last year, more than 300 performing and visual arts students took part in the education, research and clinical services provided by the center, according to the directors. Music and theatre students attended performance anxiety workshops; theatre students received exercise training to sword fight and simultaneously deliver Shakespearean lines; voice students were screened for vocal nodules and muscle tension dysphonia; music students were offered hearing assessments and provided with ear plugs, courtesy of otolaryngologist Dr. Joseph Touma, to help reduce the sound level and the risk of hearing damage for musicians.
The success of the collaboration between the College of Arts and Media and the College of Health Professions has been welcome, but a bit surprising, said Don Van Horn, dean of the College of Arts and Media and Dr. Michael Prewitt, dean of the College of Health Professions.
“The Center for Wellness in the Arts has developed and matured faster than most thought it would,” said Van Horn. “We are at a point now where the faculty who envisioned the center need to be acknowledged and encouraged to cultivate their leadership. Equally important, as the center continues to grow and gain prominence, we need to be able to direct outside inquiries to those who are in the best position to share the message about the center.”
“No one really understood this would develop like it has, but students and faculty have been so willing to participate,” said Prewitt. “As the center continues to grow, we realize this isn’t just a small activity by two colleges. This is a real asset for Marshall, so we’ve made this step to promote the center on a larger scale. The CWA needs to be more visible as a true center for excellence.”
Perrone and Vauth, co-founders of the center, said the breadth of services now offered by the center surpass their wildest dreams.
“The continuous growth of the CWA into a comprehensive center that takes care of all aspects of artistic well-being, along with its emphasis on collaboration, is something very special and unique,” Vauth said.
Perrone, one of the state’s few certified teachers of the Alexander Technique, said she is most interested in students overcoming tension and anxiety that hinders their performances.
“I’m really excited about the work that I’m doing with Dr. Liz Casey in Health Sciences to help combat that performance anxiety,” Perrone said.
McNealy said her Communications Disorders students gain additional perspective from their work with the center.
“Oftentimes we are at the point where we work with disorders after they happen,” McNealy said. “The awareness that there are prevention strategies for the body and that people have control over issues they might develop, whether it’s hearing, voice, physical movement or psychology, is powerful for my students.”
The National Athletic Trainers’ Association has identified performing arts medicine as an area of growth for the athletic training profession, according to Timmons.
“The CWA provides an opportunity for entry-level athletic training students to gain exposure to the performing arts and for graduate students to gain significant experience working with the performing artist,” Timmons said. “These opportunities are points of distinction for Marshall’s Athletic Training program, and it’s something very few schools can offer their students.”
“We have a responsibility to our students to engender in each one a commitment to better health and wellness,” said Van Horn.
Photo: Violinist Yuhao Zhou (left) has his eardrum examined by Communication Disorders student Carly Atkins as part of the services offered by the Center for Wellness in the Arts.