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Comparing music to sports: our hosts weigh in …..

There’s lead-up to the Olympics, and next thing you know, they’re over. We’re approaching the last few days of the games on Sunday, and I’ve been reflecting on the similarities between music and sports.

On February 4, after the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, and before the Olympics started in PyeungChang February 9, sports were on my mind, and the similarities between athletes and musicians. They often have a disparate fan base, but it’s ironic given how similar they are in terms of training, discipline, commitment, teamwork, and dealing with success or failure. It made me wonder why sports and music enthusiasts don’t consider the commonalities instead of focus on the obvious differences, which lead to this post, “The Parallels between Sports and Music”.

I spoke with Kathleen Kajioka, who performs with Ensemble Masques, is host of The New Classical FM “A Little Night Music” & “Dinner Classics”, and is a Baroque bon vivant.

Q: What does music bring to a sporting event?
A: Music brings to sports what it brings to all contexts in life, be it a concert, a film, a play, a party, a night at home cooking … It defines atmosphere, it sets the energetic temperature, and connects everyone occupying the same space.

Q: “Defines the atmosphere” … I love that. Musicians are athletes too – they sustain injuries, health issues, combat exhaustion, perform under jet lag …. how do you take care of your physical self?
A: The only difference between musical athletes and sports athletes (aside from the cardio!) is that it isn’t instilled in musicians to take care of our bodies outside of our main activity. Unfortunately, I had a bad overuse injury when I was 19. Fortunately, I was only 19; that is to say, though it was awful at the time, I’m grateful to have learned early, before I turned pro, of the importance of tuning in to my body and keeping myself well-aligned. Over the years that has meant regular massage and chiropractic care, and more recently, resistance training to balance my whole musculature in order mitigate the consequences of being in a crazily asymmetrical position for such long periods of time.

Jet lag is a tough one. No matter what I do (and I’ve tried many, many things), when I go play in Europe I never feel quite right until about day 4, even if I’ve managed to get on a decent sleep schedule right away. If I have to perform immediately, I don’t worry about that and just grab sleep whenever and however I can.

Q: Both musicians and athletes have to perform, and reach their peak at the right time. How do you time things so your performances coincide with feeling your best?
A: I start preparing as much in advance as I can, especially if the repertoire is challenging. Practice makes permanent, so the calmer and more patient I can be when I practice, the more grounded, relaxed and free I will be on stage. I do my most intense/final polishing two days before the performance — an elite athlete friend of mine once forbade me from touching my instrument the night before a big audition. It was good advice. The body and mind need time to gestate and settle, and stirring the pot too late can really mess things up. The day of, it’s important to save as much energy as possible, and to connect with the instrument and the music, but not to spend much intense time with it. I’ve been in situations where the soundcheck turned into a full-on rehearsal, and by the time the concert came around, my brain was tired and there was nothing left to give! It’s best to just touch on things, and trust the power of a good night’s sleep.

N.B. All of the above applies to ideal circumstances — which very rarely materialize!!

Sports and music: our hosts weigh in. Previous Q+A:
Jean Stilwell:
Bill Anderson:
Kerry Stratton:
If you’re interested in the medal standings so far, please visit The Olympics website:

More chats with our hosts in upcoming features. Enjoy the closing ceremonies tomorrow!

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