PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
A multi-perspective approach to performance anxiety in music students
Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Faculté de biologie et de médecineUniversité de LausanneUNIL - BugnonRue du Bugnon 21 - bureau 4111CH-1015 LausanneSUISSE
Number of pages
AbstractPerforming publicly has become increasingly important in a variety of professions. This condition is associated with performance anxiety in almost all performers. Whereas some performers successfully cope with this anxiety, for others it represents a major problem and even threatens their career. Musicians and especially music students were shown to be particularly affected by performance anxiety.Therefore, the goal of this PhD thesis was to gain a better understanding of performance anxiety in university music students. More precisely, the first part of this thesis aimed at increasing knowledge on the occurrence, the experience, and the management of performance anxiety (Article 1). The second part aimed at investigating the hypothesis that there is an underlying hyperventilation problem in musicians with a high level of anxiety before a performance. This hypothesis was addressed in two ways: firstly, by investigating the association between the negative affective dimension of music performance anxiety (MPA) and self-perceived physiological symptoms that are known to co-occur with hyperventilation (Article 2) and secondly, by analyzing this association on the physiological level before a private (audience-free) and a public performance (Article 3). Article 4 places some key variables of Article 3 in a larger context by jointly analyzing the phases before, during, and after performing.The main results of the self-report data show (a) that stage fright is experienced as a problem by one-third of the surveyed students, (b) that the students express a considerable need for more help to better cope with it, and (c) that there is a positive association between negative feelings of MPA and the self-reported hyperventilation complaints before performing. This latter finding was confirmed on the physiological level in a tendency of particularly high performance-anxious musicians to hyperventilate. Furthermore, the psycho-physiological activation increased from a private to a public performance, and was higher during the performances than before or after them. The physiological activation was mainly independent of the MPA score. Finally, there was a low response coherence between the actual physiological activation and the self-reports on the instantaneous anxiety, tension, and perceived physiological activation.Given the high proportion of music students who consider stage fright as a problem and given the need for more help to better cope with it, a better understanding of this phenomenon and its inclusion in the educational process is fundamental to prevent future occupational problems. On the physiological level, breathing exercises might be a good means to decrease - but also to increase - the arousal associated with a public performance in order to meet an optimal level of arousal needed for a good performance.
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