Listening to music has been shown to have a significant positive impact on wellbeing and learning music may also be beneficial for cognitive and socio-emotional development. However, as a profession, playing music can be a highly demanding career, putting a strain on musicians’ minds and bodies. While some studies on musicians’ wellbeing have shown evidence of negative health issues such as chronic pain, hearing loss, anxiety, and general psychological distress, more recent research has shown that musicians enjoy higher levels of wellbeing than the general population.
As a higher music education institution, we understand that our students have already invested a large amount of their time in developing the skills they require in order to be musicians. As they have chosen to continue with their study to further develop their musicianship, it is our priority to understand what will nurture their progress, and/or which factors might be detrimental to their physical and psychological health. As a first step to this aim, we need to explore reasons for the contradictory findings in the research literature in relation to musicians’ wellbeing.
Three main issues arise within the extant literature on the topic: (i) the limitations of the current framework of wellbeing (i.e., hedonic/eudaimonic) in relation to musicians, (ii) the disparity between standardised measurements of wellbeing, and iii) the paucity of comparative data between musicians and other population groups. This study directly addresses these questions through a cross-sectional investigation of music, sport, and control students using a selection of measures of affective states of wellbeing, alongside measures of individual traits in order to explore which, if any, of these ways of being contribute to the concept of wellbeing.
In sum, the aim of the study is to compare musicians with other high-performance students (e.g., sports), and controls (other students) in order (a) to understand which measures of wellbeing are most appropriate for music students, and (b) to develop a preliminary framework for wellbeing in musicians which incorporates factors involved in the development of their skills. In order to attend to this final point, measures of traits hypothesized to influence wellbeing (such as personality, emotional intelligence, and optimism) will be included alongside the measures of wellbeing (i.e., subjective states). This comparative design will allow us to highlight patterns specifically relevant to musicians, and thus to offer empirical groundwork for the development of a musicians’ wellbeing framework.