ASPAH Ambassador Glenn Christensen of the Australian Chamber Orchestra discusses his career and performing arts healthcare.

1. How did you get involved in the performing arts? Why did you decide to pursue a profession in the performing arts?

I started playing violin as a four year old in Mackay, Queensland, and always loved performing for other people. I was involved in many local community music organisations throughout my youth, and loved the social aspect of playing with other people, working towards a common goal and producing a final product that everyone could be proud of.

I don’t know if I ever ‘decided’ to have a profession in the performing arts, but these opportunities lead to others, and my love of music sort of lead me to the point I’m at now. I’m very lucky to do what I do!


2. Have you experienced any health challenges related to your practice as a performing artist and would you like to share this experience? What happened and why? Did you overcome the challenge and how? How did your colleagues and others respond to the challenge, if they knew about it?

I have one recurring challenge in my left arm/shoulder where if I’m practising or playing too much it becomes very tense and quite sore and the nerves become irritated. It first started from going to the gym and then practising too much with bad posture and not warming up adequately beforehand. I’m still very much working on this problem by trying to remain conscious of my posture, listening to my body when it needs a break, having a massage or going to Physio, and doing exercise that develops muscles in different ways. I’ve found doing these things also have a double benefit in keeping me mentally fit as well!

Fortunately, most people that I’ve told or talked to about this have been very supportive and understanding. I think the culture surrounding performing arts healthcare in this way is definitely changing, for the better>


3. Why do you think so many performing artists experience health challenges? What do you think is needed in order for these challenges to be addressed in sustainable ways across industries?

I think performing artists experience so much pressure (whether internally or externally) to always perform to your absolute best, or better. I think this leads to high stress loads, and perhaps people finding release through unhealthy habits (like excessive drinking, or other recreational hobbies….), which leads to lack of sleep, not eating well, and it sort of becomes a downward spiral. If we don’t maintain a healthy attitude towards our art, our mental and physical state really suffers.

Thankfully, I think people in general are becoming more aware of these obstacles, and it’s becoming less of a taboo to talk about things that may be troubling us.


4. Why have you agreed to be an ambassador for ASPAH? What does the organisation mean to you?

ASPAH has helped me address my own issues, and I believe it can help many many others. If I can help spread the word of the great work that ASPAH does, and in turn help other artists, then that can only be a good thing.