Healthy Performer

Lead Research Organisation: Royal College of Music
Department Name: Research


The Musical Impact project (AHRC 2013-18) has generated new knowledge of the physical and mental demands of music making, providing insight into chronic and acute health problems faced by musicians, as well as existing strategies for promoting health. Healthy Conservatoires was created as a legacy network of Musical Impact and now serves as a mechanism through which knowledge and good practice in the performing arts can be promoted nationally. Driven by a clear need and demand to support performers' health more effectively, we will grow and transform our community through the Healthy Performer project, extending the reach of Musical Impact research across other performing arts, including dance, drama, physical theatre and circus arts, generating innovative action, providing leadership and advocacy, and stimulating new, interdisciplinary exchange of good practice.

Healthy Performer is organised into four component work packages. The first will measure the broadened reach of Musical Impact enabled through the follow-on funding. Programmes of network building, asset mapping and systematic evaluation will be undertaken across 12 months. This insight will be used to inform the development of three new film series spanning the remaining three work packages. The first series, State-of-the-art in Performers' Health and Wellbeing, will comprise eight short films summarising key findings from Musical Impact research, helping performing artists, as well as their teachers and conservatoire support staff, understand the changes they can make in their daily practice to promote health and wellbeing. The second series, Who's Who in Performers' Health and Wellbeing, will consist of twelve short films featuring interviews with healthcare specialists who work with and treat performing artists. This will ensure that performers are aware of the range of healthcare options available and empower them to reach out for help and support when they have concerns about their physical or mental health. The third series, The Artist's Voice, will feature interviews with prominent artists from a range of fields speaking about the importance of maintaining health for the sustainability and success of performing careers. They will discuss strategies they have used in their practice, with the goal of pushing against the stigmas of a highly-competitive culture that has a tendency to encourage, if not glorify, pushing the body and mind beyond healthy limits in pursuit of high-level performance at all costs. An interactive web-platform will be created to ensure that these films, as well as key information and examples of good practice collected in the first work package, are easily available to those who can benefit from them long after Healthy Performer concludes. The project will culminate in a summit of key stakeholders and policymakers with the aim of generating innovative action and stimulating new, interdisciplinary exchange of good practice.

The Healthy Performer project is led by the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership of the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London. It is supported by the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) and Conservatoires UK (CUK), a national network of 11 specialist institutions offering world-leading training in music, dance, drama, physical theatre and circus arts.

Planned Impact

Musical Impact examined health and wellbeing across a wide range of music practitioners, from students in junior conservatoires and specialist music schools (8-18 years old) to those in higher music education and the profession (18+ years old). The Healthy Performer project will expand our reach further to new audiences and communities of performers in dance, drama, physical theatre and circus arts, empowering them to improve their health and wellbeing as they seek to perform, and help others perform, at the highest levels.

The success of the Healthy Performer project will depend on continued close collaboration with the individuals and organisations from which Musical Impact was initiated. Conservatoires UK (CUK), who represent the collective views of 11 world-leading conservatoires, will provide crucial conceptual and artistic guidance. The project will also link closely with the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), a healthcare charity that gives medical advice to those working and studying in the performing arts and shares knowledge about healthy practice. The BAPAM Director, Claire Cordeaux, sits on the Healthy Conservatoires steering group, and the proposed Who's Who film series (work package 3) will draw from BAPAM's directory of health practitioners, providing a significant enhancement to BAPAM's ability to engage performing artists.

The films produced as part of this project will be made freely available to all partners and the wider public under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) licence, encouraging their widespread sharing and use for non-commercial activities. This will include free use within educational and training contexts, while restricting the modification of the material to ensure that the primary message and critical research context remains intact.

The new film series will speak to end-users in a variety of voices, from the researchers providing the insight into the challenges performers face, to the healthcare specialists offering potential help, to the artists advocating for a change in culture and for the importance of maintaining peak health for peak performance. Musical Impact revealed serious implications for the productivity and sustainability of performers' careers as they continue to push the boundaries of human intellectual and motor achievement. While the publication of this information though academic routes has provided an important first step in its dissemination, we have an obligation to ensure that this advice is put into practice across the sector. Short, engaging films offer the opportunity for wide and continual dissemination, with an interactive web-platform maximising the accessibility of these materials and ensuring that individuals are able to find the information most relevant to their particular needs. Such films are also highly sustainable, providing continual benefit long after the 12 months of follow-on funding, as they continue to spread among performers within and across disciplines while providing a model and platform by which future research can be shared. The asset mapping and systematic evaluation described in work package 1 will provide the baseline measure of existing Musical Impact influence with which growth resulting from this funding will be compared. Beyond simply tracking viewer numbers, this exercise will comprise continual and deep engagement with key stakeholders across CUK, BAPAM and others to understand the impact of these activities and how they can be exploited during and beyond the lifetime of the project.

All of this effort will serve to maximise the impact of Musical Impact and accelerate the growing momentum of Heathy Conservatoires. What started as a national endeavour will become truly international, looking then to a worldwide network of informed and effective performers pushing the boundaries of their art in a heathy, sustainable manner.


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