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Better practice: health promotion in the music conservatoire

Matei, Raluca (2019) Better practice: health promotion in the music conservatoire. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University in collaboration with The Royal Northern College of Music.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses two main questions: 1) What can be learned from existing approaches to promoting musicians' health? 2) How can such approaches be adapted, applied and evaluated across educational and professional contexts in the UK and internationally? To answer the first question, literature reviews were conducted of interventions aimed at improving health education; preventing music performance anxiety (MPA) and performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs); and conserving musicians’ hearing. A survey of European conservatoires was conducted to explore their provision of health education. A range of programmes was reported; they vary widely in focus, quality, and outcomes. Only 21 responses were received, so firm conclusions cannot be drawn, but guidelines on health education are clearly worth developing. A study of trends in students’ use of counselling at a UK music conservatoire showed year-on-year increases in sessions attended, primarily for issues related to self-esteem, relationships, academic concerns, loss, abuse and anxiety. To answer the second question, a compulsory health and wellbeing course for 103 first year students at the same conservatoire was designed on the basis of findings described above and in collaboration with members of Healthy Conservatoires. Pre-post testing showed improvements in the students’ perceived knowledge of health topics, awareness of risks to health, and self-efficacy; the students enjoyed the course and reported changes in both attitudes and behaviours. Finally, 111 music students at several UK conservatoires took part in a cross-sectional survey designed to investigate a range of potential risk factors for PRMDs. The results showed poor knowledge of official guidelines for physical activity (PA) despite high levels of self-reported PA; relatively high levels of anxiety; and reliance on teachers and lectures for health-related information. The thesis concludes with a discussion of its implications and suggestions for further research, including an example of relevant ongoing research on musicians’ health literacy.

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