Wellbeing for young elite musicians: strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for change to an existing health protocol from a student perspective.
Shoebridge, A., & Osborne, M. S. (2023, 18 August). Wellbeing for young elite musicians: strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for change to an existing health protocol from a student perspective. Paper presented at the International Symposium on Performance Science 2023, 17-20 August. Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland. https://doi.org/10.26188/24159132
Background: Musicians are vulnerable to psychological and physical playing-related problems. These problems often emerge during student years while playing and health practices are being established. Vulnerability to playing-related problems arises not only from proximal risk factors such as individual behaviours, but also from distal factors that drive those behaviours, including industry mores, institutional policies and peer culture. Successful outcomes in occupational health depend on contextual input from service recipients. This qualitative study examining student attitudes to wellbeing in the context of pre-professional music study is part of a larger project to create a robust and sustainable wellbeing protocol for young elite musicians.
Aims: To identify strengths and weaknesses in existing wellbeing supports for young elite musicians in pre-professional training, and formulate recommendations for improvements to wellbeing supports from the student perspective.
Method: Researchers facilitated focus group discussions using a semi-structured questionnaire with 40 students (61% of total cohort) at a pre-professional classical music performance training academy. Group discussions were recorded, transcribed, and analysed thematically. Recommendations for strategies to improve student wellbeing were derived from the analysis and from specific requests made by students during the focus groups.
Results: The main “strengths” themes were a supportive institutional culture; the institution’s wholistic attitude toward wellbeing and performance, and provision of specialised wellbeing advice and services. The main “weakness” themes were stress caused by financial difficulties; insufficient time off to have a healthy private and social life alongside the rehearsal and performance schedule, and pressure from self- and externally imposed expectations and career uncertainty. Recommendations included implementing a balanced schedule with at least one day off each week to allow time for students to earn an adequate income and practice healthy social, mental and physical self-care alongside their playing schedule; the provision of more practical mental, social and physical wellbeing sessions, and more opportunities for socialising among the student body.
Conclusions: While students were appreciative of the wellbeing program and supportive institutional culture, practice and performance priorities left insufficient time or energy to earn an adequate living and sustain social, mental and physical health. Recommendations for change included changes to institutional policies and the provision of targeted, practical wellbeing resources.
Keywords: musicians, wellbeing, education, risk factors, occupational health
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