What challenges do musicians face, and which unique resources can they draw upon to promote their own health and wellbeing? What do students, in this regard, expect from their Higher Education institutions? How can such institutions prepare and support students and thus empowering them to have successful and healthy careers?
Within the "Empowering Musicians" research programme, the Competence Centre Music Performance Research investigates these questions and more. Our researchers evaluate, develop and implement knowledge and resources to support musicians’ health and wellbeing. Our long-term aim is to help cultivate a culture of care within Higher Education music institutions.
International pilot studies on musicians’ health
Between 2019 and 2021, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, together with the University of Leeds and Cardiff Metropolitan University, ran three pilot studies with music, sport and other students in Switzerland and abroad. Our aim was to gather baseline data on students’ health and wellbeing and to capture their understanding of wellbeing within the context of their vocation.
From these pilot studies the following key trends can be derived:
Overall, the wellbeing of students from all disciplines is significantly lower than that of the general population. Music students in particular rate their physical and psychological wellbeing and their quality of life lower than the general population. However, satisfaction rates for social relations and other environment aspects (e.g., mobility, spare time, health system) were rated higher by music students compared to the rates reported for the general population.
Physical and psychological health issues are areas of concern in the early stages of higher education, with a majority of first semester students already having experienced health problems related to their singing or playing their instrument. However, students show awareness for these problems and engage in a variety of health-promoting practices.
Traits such as optimism and emotional stability support wellbeing in students in general, while conscientiousness is a key factor for students of performance-focused disciplines such as sport and music. However, self-perception of competence is a factor of particular importance for the wellbeing for music students.
Moreover, the wellbeing of music students is significantly influenced by individual mindsets, especially by the conviction that one’s own capabilities and talents can be developed through devotion and hard work (‘growth mindset’). Nevertheless, the majority of music students believe their institutions are co-responsible for their wellbeing.
Finally, music students believe wellbeing and success are highly inter-related and have a nuanced understanding of what wellbeing means to them. They define wellbeing as a combination of health and safety, vitality, and a positive attitude; whereas success is measured in terms of recognition and financial stability. Most importantly, however, music students perceive that the key to a meaningful life lies at the intersection of wellbeing and success: personal development, happiness, authenticity, and functional social relationships.
The findings so far provide a concrete mandate for action for Higher Music Education institutions. Strategies need to be developed to further promote the health and wellbeing of musicians.
The findings of these pilot studies reveal the necessity for a holistic view on health and wellbeing for professional musicians and music students.
In a next project, “Health Literacy and Practices for Musicians' Empowerment”, possible solutions and strategies to better support students will be developed with instrumental teachers and other employees at the Lucerne School of Music.