Classical musicians discuss beta-blocker use

Posted on: August 16, 2010

In Monday’s (8/16) Philadelphia Inquirer, Vabren L. Watts writes, “While beta-blockers have long been known as effective treatments for heart failure, many conservatory students and professional classical musicians use these drugs to relieve performance anxiety induced by their highly competitive and ‘no-room-for-error’ line of work. At the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, professor Hal Robinson praises beta-blockers as a great mechanism for anxiety relief and has no problems with students using them. But another professor, Joseph Silverstein, compares them to legalized steroids for the classically trained. Beta-blockers are at the center of a growing debate about the use of prescription drugs to enhance performance. … Musicians say many students choose to use the drugs more to calm themselves than intensify their playing. ‘Beta-blockers are not performance enhancers, at least not for musicians,’ says Curtis student Jessica T. Chang, who says she has never used beta-blockers but is now considering them after a shaky debut performance last year. ‘Either you can play or not,’ the violist says, ‘it just helps the anxiety go away.’ ”

Posted August 16, 2010