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School of Music | Music with an Outside Field | Physical Therapy
College athletes aren’t strangers to physical therapy. Injuries need to be prevented or treated when they occur. But Ellie Phillips-Burdge wasn’t an athlete when she developed an overuse injury and sought out PT; she was a dedicated piano student at Ithaca College.
The treatment she received sparked her interest in physical therapy, and Ellie took on exercise science as part of her bachelor of music with an outside field program. At the time, the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance had just begun offering a class and summer workshop that focused on preventing injuries in musicians.
“I was able to recognize a lot of parallels between elite athletes and professional musicians,” Ellie says.
She quickly went about combining her two passions. During her senior year, Ellie presented an independent study on the effects movement, stretch, and relaxation techniques have on musical performers.
“It was a great opportunity for me to showcase the direction I was going in to combine these different worlds,” Ellie says.
A decade after graduating with her degree in music, Ellie came back to Ithaca to get a master’s degree in physical therapy to better blend the disciplines. Now she’s growing her own business, providing physical therapy for performing artists, musical education for disabled individuals, and traditional, stand-alone services in both music education and physical therapy.
Ellie admits music and PT is an uncommon combo, but says musicians and the general public alike are becoming familiar with the emerging field of performing arts medicine. This is certainly the case at Ithaca College, which now has dedicated lab space and a nearly 20-year history of working with performance artists to treat and prevent injuries.
“I think it is something unique the college offers compared to other institutions,” she says.
>> More on this story: School of Health Sciences and Human Performance
Alex Canovas and his friends at Ithaca College agree: there’s something above and beyond about the School of Music.
“One of the top things we say is how we out-do the competition, in terms of performance and professionalism,” Alex says. “Our résumés, our headshots, our collegiality are at a totally different level than students we see from other schools.”
The talented tenor plunged right in freshman year when he was assigned two lead roles in the ensembles for two different operas being performed that year.
“Jumping into a real-world situation at 18 years old was kind of scary,” he remarks. “At the end of the day though, it was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.”
Countless more performances followed, including the lead role in the opera L’Orfeo, and performances with the Ithaca College Choir in Philadelphia and at the Strathmore Center for Music (home to the National Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) outside Washington, D.C.
Now the IC senior has graduate school in his sights. And with graduate-level music programs often wanting applicants to have a certain amount of professional experience behind them, Alex is confident Ithaca College has provided just that.
“The level of experience we have as students is definitely of a professional caliber,” he says.
Editor's Note: In August 2012, Alex began an exciting position as a coordinator for OPERA America's brand new National Opera Center, located in Manhattan. The Center is the first specially designed facility for the opera industry. It will feature a double-height audition hall with excellent acoustics, recording equipment, and other facilities for industry business. For more information, visit www.operaamerica.org.
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