College of Health Professions and College of Arts and Media team up to provide Center for Wellness in the Arts

ElliotSmithson_atTheatreRehearsalTwo of Marshall’s largest colleges have joined together to provide a new opportunity for students in the performing arts.

Since August  the College of Health Professions and the College of Arts and Media have been offering performing arts students the chance to work with athletic trainers to prevent injury from occurring during performances. This idea was initiated by two young faculty members and has developed into what is now being called the Marshall University Center for Wellness in the Arts (CWA).

Dr. Henning Vauth, assistant professor of music in the College of Arts and Media, said he and his colleague, theatre professor Nicole Perrone, visited Ohio University last year and toured their Clinic for Science and Health in Artistic Performance. Vauth said the clinic is a place where injured performing artists can be evaluated by licensed athletic trainers who have the proper knowledge and equipment to treat their injuries.

JohnMarks_TheatreStudent_CWA“We met with the director of the Ohio University clinic and brainstormed ways to implement this same type of program at Marshall University,” Vauth said. “When we first envisioned CWA, we thought there would be three components: education, treatment and research. Many performing arts students have developed a mentality that a certain amount of pain is a part of the performer’s process. We want to change the culture and educate students so they look at pain as a problem and treat it accordingly so they can enjoy long careers.”

Donald Van Horn, dean of the College of Arts and Media, said he commends Vauth and Perrone for developing this program and for reaching out to the College of Health Professions.

“We’re taking some very positive and aggressive steps toward ensuring that our students have the opportunity to go to a place on campus where they can receive evaluation and suggestions to alleviate pain and injuries associated with the repetitive actions their work requires, particularly in the performing arts,” Van Horn said.

Dr. Mark Timmons, an assistant professor of athletic training and a facilitator of the CWA, said finding the right athletic trainer was a very important part of this unique collaboration.

“We wanted to find an athletic trainer who had worked with musicians, dancers, actors…someone who could appreciate the type of treatment we are trying to provide for our performing arts students,” Timmons said. “The most qualified candidate we chose had previous work experience with Disney and the Varsity Spirit Corporation.”

Elliot Smithson was recruited by the college’s School of Kinesiology to work with the performing arts students to prevent injuries before they happen. Smithson is a licensed athletic trainer and a graduate assistant in the College of Health Professions.

“My experience working at Disney made me realize these performers do the same type of intense movements for hours at a time and at the same intensity as many professional athletes,” Smithson said. “Many well-known organizations such as Cirque du Soleil and Broadway have implemented athletic training into their industry. We need to start considering these performers as a part of the active population because leaving them out is doing them a great disservice.”

Timmons said there have been discussions about the possibility of offering an interdisciplinary degree program for wellness in the arts in the future.

The Center for Wellness in the Arts clinic is open from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the athletic training lab located in Gullickson Hall room 209 on the Marshall Huntington campus.  For more information about the CWA, contact Van Horn at, Timmons at or by visiting the center’s Facebook page at online.


Photos: Elliot Smithson (far left) is shown leading warm-ups for theatre students in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse before they begin rehearsals for their upcoming play, Tom Sawyer. John Marks  of Palatka, Fla., is a senior theatre student in the College of Arts and Media. Marks said he believes the recent CWA sessions have helped strengthen the physical and mental approach necessary to ready one’s body for performance.