The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) has appointed a lecturer in musicians’ health and well-being following concerns that students are at risk of mental health struggles. The appointment is the first of its kind among UK conservatoires.
There are concerns that students at the Oxford Road-based conservatoire face the additional pressures of long hours of music practice, assessed recitals, and live performances.
The appointment of the lecturer has been done with the aim of educating students on how they can equip themselves to deal with the demands of a career in music.
The well-being lecturer, beginning her new post in January, will be trained pianist and clinical psychologist Sara Ascenso. She will oversee the provision of health and well-being resources specific to the needs of musicians across the conservatoire, ensuring that it is holistic, research-based, and embedded in the curriculum.
Ascenso has said on her role: “Adding to lecturing and research, the vision for the role also includes carefully monitoring the specific well-being needs of RNCM students and staff and looking at how the most recent findings in this area can shape our planning towards optimal delivery across a wide range of initiatives.
“We want our students to learn how to make music with excellence but also how to live fulfilling lives as musicians and as human beings more generally. This means that what they are learning is not only about doing but also about being. We want to maximise our efforts to make sure they experience what being well as a musician means during their time at the RNCM.”
Kathy Hart, the President of the RNCM Students’ Union, says: “When I talk to friends, I see that the work needed to build such a difficult career can come at a price, both physically and psychologically.
“Like athletes, we must keep in peak condition to make the most of the opportunities we have fought so hard for. The more work we put in, the higher the stakes become — and the more devastating the impact if we are held back by injury or mental health struggles.”
The appointment coincides with RNCM announcing that its 2018/19 Annual Appeal — in which the conservatoire supports and raises funds for a particular cause annually — is dedicated to helping music students’ health and well-being, citing that the pursuit of a career as a musician exists in a “fast-paced, challenging environment.”
The Appeal launched on the 26th of November. It will involve providing struggling students with reliable counselling services at times when performance pressures are at their peak, training all staff in mental health awareness, expanding the team of mental health first aiders to help spot students in need, and promoting well-being activities.