Emese Hruska has completed her research project into perfectionism that we shared in June 2013. Research findings have been submitted to the Music Education Research journal. Emese hopes the results will be useful for many musicians and practitioners and we look forward to reading more.
Title: What factors determine perfectionism and performance anxiety in classical musicians?
Perfectionism has been found to be both an aetiological and a maintaining factor in musicians’ anxious performances (Kenny, 2011). There is very little focus on musicians in the literature on perfectionism, and no research has been conducted using qualitative methods. To fill this gap, a qualitative study was conducted that explored classically trained musicians’ memorable life experiences regarding their musicianship, to investigate (a) which life experiences add to developing maladaptive perfectionism and music performance anxiety (MPA), (b) how musicians see themselves falling short of their own standards, and (c) what practices they use to help to reduce anxiety and improve their musical practice and performance. Findings from the analysis of fourteen open-ended, semi-structured interviews suggest that parental guidance and expectations determined participants’ coping styles and perfectionist attitudes. Quality of instruction, communications skills and the attitudes of instrumental teachers in music colleges and conductors in professional orchestras had a strong effect on the participants’ musical development, goal setting, anxiety and perfectionism. Auditions were reported to be the most challenging musical situations that caused the highest level and occurrence of MPA, and feedback was needed after taking part in an audition in order to keep general anxiety levels low. Positive factors included the characteristics of good teachers; effective practice behaviours (mental resilience, acceptance, not trying hard, satisfaction, mental and coping skills, and dealing with emotions); and the positive effect of complementary activities (e.g. yoga, mindfulness).