Musical Impact

Musical Impact was pioneering, multi-institutional research project that shed new light on performers’ health and wellbeing, culminating in foundation of Healthy Conservatoires.

Musical Impact generated new knowledge of physical and mental demands of music making, contributed new insight into musicians’ chronic and acute health problems, and examined effective strategies for health promotion across three component studies.

The project was first research collaboration among Conservatoires UK (CUK) institutions. It drew on CUK’s combined networks of musicians, researchers and health professionals, in partnership with Association of British Orchestras (ABO), Musicians’ Union, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), and International Health Humanities Network.


Fit to perform

A longitudinal study physical and mental fitness for performance, junior and senior conservatoire students, staff and alumni were offered the opportunity to participate in comprehensive physical and psychological health screening programmes. Alongside, the team measured the impact of innovative interventions on health, as well as explored how musicians experience health and wellbeing in daily lives.

Making music

This study examined the physical and mental demands of practising and performing. The team documented those demands as well as the characteristics of performers who successfully met them. Physiological and biomechanical assessments were made during practice and performance, including the recording and analysis of muscle activity and the monitoring of energy expenditure.

Better practice

This study examined international health promoting programmes in music and explored their practical applications in order to inform training and enhance support services within educational and professional contexts.

The Impact of Musical Impact

The combined efforts of Musical Impact and Healthy Conservatoires have led to wide ranging engagement of performing arts communities.

For musicians

Our work has directly engaged over 1500 musicians, ranging from CUK junior (aged 8−18 years) and senior (aged 18+) students to professional musicians around the UK, including…

  • 90-minute fitness screenings for over 600 musicians,
  • 3-hour vocal health screenings for over 150 musicians,
  • 4-hour biomechanical assessments for 20 musicians,
  • 1-hour physiological assessments for 30 musicians,
  • 20 hours of in-depth interviews with over 30 CUK students and professional musicians.

For conservatoires

All CUK institutions and other European conservatoires have engaged with Musical Impact and Healthy Conservatoires, including…

  • data collection, nationally and internationally,
  • presentations, lectures and workshops, reaching a total audience of 3500 people.

For sector partners

Musical Impact and Healthy Conservatoires have generated interest within and beyond our immediate sector partners, including…

  • data collection, within specific orchestras and across the broader music sector,
  • mainstream reports of research findings – e.g. on YouTube and BBC Radio,
  • presentations, lectures and workshops, reaching a total audience of 5000 people.

Principal investigators

Aaron Williamon, RCM
Emma Redding, Trinity Laban
Jane Ginsborg, RNCM

Project team

Liliana Araújo, RCM
Louise Atkins, RCM
Stephen Broad, RCS
Terry Clark, RCM
Raluca Matei, RNCM
Rosie Perkins, RCM
Helen Reid, Guildhall
Christina Siomos, Trinity Laban
David Wasley, Cardiff Met
Alan Watson, Cardiff University
Howard Bird, Evaluator


Conservatoires UK
Musicians’ Union

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

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Learn more

Araújo L, Wasley D, Perkins R, Atkins L, Redding E, Ginsborg J, & Williamon A (2017), Fit to perform: an investigation of higher education music students’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward health, Frontiers in Psychology, 8 (1558), 1-19 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Araújo L, Wasley D, Redding E, Atkins L, Perkins R, Ginsborg J, & Williamon A (2020), Fit to perform: a profile of higher education music students’ physical fitness, Frontiers in Psychology, 11 (298), 1-18 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Ascenso S, Delle Fave A, Perkins R, & Williamon A (2022), Fostering musicians’ wellbeing, in GE McPherson (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Music Performance, Vol 2 (pp. 574-594), Oxford University Press.

Ascenso S, Williamon A, & Perkins R (2017), Understanding the psychological wellbeing of professional musicians through the lens of positive psychology, Psychology of Music45, 65-81 [DOI].

Chanwimalueang T, Aufegger L, Adjei T, Wasley D, Cruder C, Mandic DP, & Williamon A (2017), Stage call: cardiovascular reactivity to audition stress in musicians, PLOS One12 (e0176023), 1-14 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Clark T & Williamon A (2022), Interdisciplinary experiential learning, in GE McPherson (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Music Performance, Vol 2 (555-573), Oxford University Press.

Cruder C, Falla D, Mangili F, Azzimonti L, Araújo L, Williamon A, & Barbero M (2018), Profiling the location and extent of musicians’ pain using digital pain drawings, Pain Practice18, 53-66 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Fancourt D, Aufegger L, & Williamon A (2015), Low-stress and high-stress singing have contrasting effects on glucocorticoid response, Frontiers in Psychology, 6 (1242), 1-5 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Farruque S and Watson AHD (2016), Developing expertise and professionalism: health and wellbeing in performing musicians, in I Papageorgi & G Welch (eds.), Advanced Musical Performance: Investigations in Higher Education Learning (pp. 319-332), Ashgate.

Holmes P (2017), Towards a conceptual framework for resilience research in music training and performance: cross-discipline review, Music Performance Research, 8, 114-132.

Matei R (2017), Tutti for health and wellbeing: performing health psychology, Health Psychology Update, 26, 19-23 [LINK].

Matei R, Broad S, Goldbart J, & Ginsborg J (2018), Health education for musicians, Frontiers in Psychology, 9 (1137), 1-17 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Matei R & Ginsborg J (2018), Music performance anxiety in classical musicians: what we know about what works, British Journal of Psychiatry International, 14, 33-35.

Matei R & Ginsborg J (2020), Physical activity, sedentary behaviour, anxiety, and pain among musicians in the UK, Frontiers in Psychology, 11 (560026), 1-14 [DOI].

Perkins R, Reid H, Araújo L, Clark T, & Williamon A (2017), Perceived enablers and barriers to optimal health among music students: a qualitative study in the music conservatoire setting, Frontiers in Psychology(968), 1-15 [DOI].

Zabuska A, Ginsborg J, & Wasley D (2018), A preliminary comparison study of burnout and engagement in performance students in Australia, Poland and the UK, International Journal of Music Education, 36, 366-379 [DOI].

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