Trends in Music Performance Students' Wellbeing since 2000

Research output: Contributions to conferencesPaperpeer-review



There is growing concern for the health of students in higher education. As professional musicians in training, many music students face additional problems. While there is a body of research on the prevalence of MPA and PRMDs in student musicians, for example, the full range of issues they experience, both psychological and in relation to their physical health, remains to be explored. One resource that came to our attention early in the development of the health promotion course described in Paper 1 of this symposium is a database of (student self-referrals maintained by counselors at one UK conservatoire since 2000.

The aim of the study was to analyze the information in the database so as to identify issues of concern to students and explore potential trends in their wellbeing over time, and to seek comparator data from at least one other insti-tution to contextualize the information in the database.

Ethical approval was sought and granted by the CUK Research Ethics Committee. Anonymous data for 665 students were obtained from written records dating from 2000, entered into, and analyzed using SPSS. Information included year of referral; date of birth; sex; nationality; school, program and year of study; number of sessions attended; and presenting and emerging problems. These were labeled by the counselors, according to the list of 280 specific health issues and their variants (ranging from academic and occupational stress to abuse, self-harm, personality disorders and issues related to cultural identity, pregnancy, and finances) provided by the Association of University and College Counsellors, a division of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. The intensity of each issue was scored on a range from “Experiencing normal issues of living, mood stable, functioning well” (0) to “Not coping; out of control; despair; emotionally overwhelmed; suicidal thoughts/intent” (7). Comparator data from a second UK conservatoire were identified.

Preliminary analyses of the database revealed a year-on-year increase from 14 referrals in 2000-2001 to 78 in 2014-2015. The majority of students were undergraduates (71%), female (63%), and British (79%), divided between string players (29%), wind, brass and percussion players (28%), singers (26%), and keyboard players (10%). They attended from one to 130 sessions (M=7.6; Mo=1). The most frequently-reported reasons for attending the first session related to self-esteem, self-confidence, ego strength, and coping ability; relationships with family, partner, and others including members of staff; and general anxiety and music performance anxiety. Other emerging issues included personal growth, search for values, and meaning; lack of academic motivation or ability to concentrate; and procrastination and persecution, bullying, harassment, or stalking. In terms of their intensity, presenting problems were causing sufficient distress to affect multiple areas of functioning (M=4). In the paper, these results are set in context by reference to the available comparator data.

The database provides valuable information as to the main issues of concern to several generations of music perfor-mance students at a UK conservatoire, over time. Reference to comparator data indicates the degree to which these may be typical of UK conservatoires more generally. The emerging issues will be explored further (e.g. by instrument and voice) and could inform potential intervention studies. It would also be useful to consider follow-up in terms of referral onward to other professionals, such was the intensity of some presenting problems.Keywordsconservatoire;


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 31 Aug 2017
EventInternational Symposium on Performance Science - Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 30 Aug 20172 Sept 2017


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Performance Science
Abbreviated titleISPS
Internet address