Robson & Kenny 2017

This paper focusses on a population of musicians often neglected in the research  - those who do it for it's own enjoyment rather that moving towards a professional career. The main research questions was to find the rate of music performance anxiety (MPA) in 'non-music major undergraduates' (NM) across a number of US universities and colleges, and then to compare it with 'music major undergraduates' (MM) or students that were intending to be professional musicians in the future. The study surveyed 320 and found some interesting results, 

  • 98.8% of NM had experienced MPA in their life
  • 39.9% of all respondents had experienced a 'performance breakdown' (PB) such as memory lapse, not starting, stopping playing or cancelling and those students who had experienced PB reported higher levels of MPA than those that had never experienced it
  • although previous studies had reported that females experienced higher anxiety this study found no significant differences between the genders 
  • students hoping to head into the profession experienced a significantly higher MPA score
  • students with depression report higher levels of MPA and can be considered a predictor for MPA
  • the students in this US study displayed higher levels of MPA (NM 98.04 and MM 112.53) compared to for a study of professional Australian orchestral musicians (83.5) and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music students (68) and these results are 'even more compelling' because the score for was for ensemble playing which is unusual (as one would think that it would be less stressful than solo performance)

There were a few results that, as a musician, that makes you think 'well, derr! of course that would show up'. For instance the idea that 'fear of negative evaluation is a significant predictor in MPA' - but  it is comforting to see it on the page. I again experienced this 'derr' feeling when I read the concluding paragraph: 'educators must be sensitive to their risk of exacerbating students’ MPA' and that students reported 'being filled with nervous apprehension before performing, shaking before it was time to perform, having memory lapses, feeling terrified, and being overwhelmed by the stresses of school and of performing' as they had received a harsh comments from the ensemble conductor. The author states that these sorts of comments have a negative effect on their playing, decreasing the confidence they have to play well and 'create specific psychological vulnerability, predisposing the musician to more MPA, and negatively affecting performance quality and enjoyment.'

This paper reiterates what most of us already know - harsh and judgmental music teachers  and their negative comments leave students vulnerable to suffering from stage fright for years to come.

Deborah HartComment