Following an injury, master cellist Patricia Fronda turns to science to help fellow artists

Patricia Fronda

After an injury to her hand, cellist Patricia Fronda was inspired to advocate for greater awareness of injury in the performing arts. She has now redirected her efforts towards the field of occupational therapy and hopes to provide musicians with more specialized treatments.

“Nowadays I feel that there’s such a wide gap between the fields of art and the fields of science and they’re not meant to be separate. They’re meant to work together,” said Fronda. “There’s too much distance now between the fields and I’m excited to bring these two fields back together… and hopefully others will see ways of incorporating other fields into their work.”

Coming from a family who has been heavily involved in music beginning at a young age, Fronda initially played piano and took voice lessons. At age 16, her love of cello was ignited when she heard Bach’s Prelude to Cello Suite No. 5 and began taking lessons.

While obtaining her bachelor’s degree in music performance at Fresno State, she suffered an injury to her left hand while weightlifting. Within her experience, Fronda felt frustrated with the current treatment plans available to her.

“I was honestly really scared and I didn’t know how to fix it. Everyone just kept telling me ‘rest’ and I felt like I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t just stop playing cello because my recital was literally a month after my injury,” said Fronda. “I didn’t feel like my needs as a musician were taken into consideration. I felt like I had to do this alone. I want to advocate for this movement of being honest and not being afraid to speak up about one’s struggles.”

Upon the completion of her undergraduate studies, Fronda continued to pursue a master’s degree in music performance as well. Within her first semester of graduate school, she wrote a research paper on overuse syndrome in performing artists as part of her coursework. Through her research, she learned that many musicians have been diagnosed with overuse syndrome.

“Unfortunately I think its an ingrained thing in the musical community as a whole to just play through pain. A lot of people just accept that and I know that’s not a healthy thing. That shouldn’t be the case and I wish that mentality could be completely removed.”

After Fronda earned her master’s in music performance with the initial intention of teaching music at the college level, she decided to refocus her efforts within the field and pivot her career goals towards occupational therapy, with performing artist injuries specifically in mind.

“In my master’s I felt like there was something that I could do for the musical community because often times no one likes to talk about if they’re injured because people are scared to maybe lose jobs or maybe lose opportunities if they vocalize their physical struggle,” said Fronda. “So I wanted to move away from this performing education aspect to a completely new field of occupational therapy … so I can hopefully specialize in treating performing artists for repetitive motion injuries, conditions like overuse syndrome, and carpal tunnel.”

Looking towards the future, Fronda’s enthusiasm continues to drive her towards a successful career that will allow her to serve the community that has shaped her throughout her life.

“The idea of helping musicians — that excites me. Working with people that I have an understanding with — that excites me. Not just talking about music making, but talking about how we use our bodies for music making is something that I’m particularly interested in.”  

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