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Classical musicians’ wellbeing and relationship.

Continuing on from the classical musicians and wellbeing study from last week. This week’s piece continues to look into this research and the illuminating themes that were discovered.

Last week we covered the main themes of identity, self-concepts and musical moments. This week we continue along a similar path and look at the next theme of relationships and the importance of these to the musicians in the study.

The theme of relationships outlined the importance of familial, social, group and work communities. The research showed that the relational space of the musical environment and relationships with the self, the audience and other group members provided a strong sense of meaning. Within this theme, the musicians used rich descriptive terms such as ‘family, mini-society and hierarchies’ and they placed great importance on the group identity as a source of meaning, self-actualisation and positive emotions through sharing and learning with their colleagues. This being on the same ‘wavelength’ also resonated with my own study of popular musicians which you can read here.

One particularly vibrant aspect of this study was the concluding discussion which explored the need for musicians to have other engagements outside of their musicking. A huge challenge when our work often overlaps with our life, hobby and meaning! The fourth theme highlighted how the transition to becoming a professional was one of the most impactful wellbeing challenges experienced by the musicians. This transition from conservatoire to professional musicking included conflicts and pressures such as proving one’s worth to the group and meeting expectations. In contrast to this, the ‘shared memories of success, positive relationships and the construction of group identity’ generated feelings of security.

Overall, the transition involved in becoming a professional was experienced as both a challenge and a resource, a common theme within the paradox of musicking overall! 

The study as a whole provided a refreshing challenge to the dominant theme of struggle within the existing research literature, and explored how six musicians understood their experiences of building and maintaining wellbeing. The group’s idiosyncratic experiences challenged the stereotypical assumption that professional musicking is stressful and detrimental. By exploring the themes of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment, the study demonstrated the different ways that these classical musicians cultivated their wellbeing and better mental health. 

There are many similarities between the different groups of musicking people but I do feel classical musicians can be quite unique in their environments. For example, there is a more formal pathway to a career in the classical domain which is vary different to openness of the popular world. In the world of popular musicking (which is vast) it does seem slightly more haphazard and messier with a greater edge of freedom. This is both a good and bad thing I suppose. To conclude, this study did provide a fantastic balance to the normative narrative of the struggling musician and enables a much deeper look into how engagement in music can also help us.

Don’t forget the Peer Support Groups offered by Tonic Rider provide a safe space for exploration around both the good and bad of musicking, whatever genre we are swimming in.


Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.


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