The human body is, in a lot of ways, similar to a musical instrument. It requires fine tuning and hours of interaction. The muscles can be manipulated in any number of ways to react a certain way to stimulation or to look a certain way. Athletes, like musicians, spend hours strengthening their muscles and honing in on their skills to be the best they can be at a particular sport. But what many people don’t realize is musicians too, need to stay on top of their physical fitness to keep their brains sharp and receptive to the demands of perfecting a musical instrument. It’s no secret that eating well and staying active does great things for a person’s overall health, but these factors are especially important for anyone trying to perform at a high level.

YEG Fitness recently caught up with Clayton Leung a local musician who has been part of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since 2013 and has been a dedicated musician since the tender age of three.

Leung first studied at the Langley Community Music School after his mother saw her friends’ daughter play the violin at a party. Leung’s first love was the violin, crafting one out of a cereal box and a bow. Leung would eventually transition to the viola in 2013 when he joined the ESO.

Leung says most of his professional career has been built from his interaction with the viola. Leung’s musical agility is not unlike an athlete who is adept at transitioning from one sport to the next because of the fitness foundation laid in their original sport. Leung says his favourite part about being a professional musician is being able to connect with people. “It is so wonderful to be able to revel in all of the opportunities I have working with such inspiring colleagues both in the ESO, as well as my chamber music mates in YEG4, Trio de Moda and the Obsessions Octet. Something that excites me is getting together with such remarkable musicians who share some my goals and my passion; which is bringing music to people in all walks of life, whether it be in a concert hall, a stadium, a church, a care home or a night club,” he says.

He goes on to credit the youth orchestras he was part of for his growth, “Growing up as an energetic child, I never really enjoyed spending a lot of time in my room practicing alone but I seemed to thrive on work in a social environment. I was very fortunate to join various musical groups in my community ranging from several youth orchestras to smaller chamber music groups with additional activities like choir, ukulele and church organizations. It all contributed to my career of becoming a performing artist and musician.” says Leung. 

No doubt a musician of Leung’s caliber is tasked with a daunting schedule. A typical week for Leung during orchestral season consists of several hours of rehearsals and concertizing with his colleagues. Additionally, he also needs to rehearse individually for some of the ensembles he belongs to outside of the ESO that he performs within the local community and beyond. In addition to his hectic rehearsal schedule Leung maintains a regular exercise schedule where he works out in the gym four times a week. Prior to coming to Edmonton, Leung says he trained with a friend who was actively involved in competitive body building, but with his current work load that type of training isn’t realistic for Leung. When he can adhere to a regular schedule Leung prefers early morning workouts which leave him feeling invigorated and keep up his energy levels. He keeps his fuel pretty simple, hot overnight oats for breakfast, a protein-centered meal like steak and salad for lunch and dinner is usually similar to lunch but also accompanied by a complex carbohydrate like brown rice or sweet potatoes. Of course, there is a wiggle room for pizza or a banana cream pie in his diet.

In addition to his musical pursuits Leung says he has been thinking of sharing his knowledge of fitness with other athletes who are looking to fine tune their bodies through muscle tone—without damaging or straining their muscles. Leung approaches his goals with an open mind and a free spirit but often reminds himself to keep setting the bar just a little bit higher and to strive for something exceptional. In his musical career and pursuits Leung is proof that fine tuning your wellness routine yields great results.

By Melissa Lilley