Whether you’re a soccer player perfecting your angels of a corner kick, or a trombonist diligently hitting every note of a scale, both undeniably require long hours of physical repetition in order to perfect.

HPO French Horn player Neil Spaulding.

The competitive and sometimes ferocious nature of sports and the graceful art of music heard during an orchestral performance may, at first, seem totally unrelated. However, numerous comparisons can be drawn between the two. When members of our HPO aren’t practicing their instruments or performing, many of them engage in sports and active lifestyles. Whether it’s cycling or running in marathons, our HPO musicians find that there are related parallels between sports and music. Both an extreme amount of physical discipline, focus and commitment to perform at such a high calibre.

French horn player Neil Spaulding has played sports his entire life, playing hockey as a child and ultimately getting into long distance running in grade nine. He participates in marathons, as well as cycling and swimming. “There is similarity in personality between an athlete and musician because both have to be trainable,” says Neil. Training in sports throughout his life has helped him musically and he says, “We do something physically that requires us to execute fine motor skills in a particular way, just like athletes have to with their bodies.” Athletes work towards strengthening their bodies and minds in the context of their particular sport, while musicians practise body movements, patterns, scales and chords sequences to refine their motor skills. “Having the ability to analyze what you’re doing physically and change it subtly is important, in both music and sports,” says Neil.

Former HPO Music Director James Sommerville.
Former HPO Music Director James Sommerville.

Boston Symphony Principal Horn player and former HPO conductor  James Sommerville participates in endurance sports, specifically triathlons and marathons. He believes that the two really feed off of each other because you have to develop discipline in order to be a good athlete and musician alike. Long hours of intensive training and preparation go into a performance or race. “Fundamentally, musicians performing is athletic in a certain way because you are always training your body as much as your are training your mind,” admitted Jamie. Interestingly, he explains that “neuromuscular conditioning is vital when it comes to playing an instrument.” For Jamie, the nerves don’t come when he walks on stage to conduct a concert, but rather when he is participating in a two thousand-person triathlon and prepares to brave the challenges of the race.

Creative, ambitious, balanced, preserving – all can describe the shared nature of athletes and musicians alike. There are numerous members of our community that enjoy a lifestyle infused with a healthy blend of fitness and musical appreciation and your HPO is no different.