Issues around health and wellbeing can place limits on one’s achievements, not only in music performance, but in other aspects of everyday life too. At Royal Birmingham Conservatoire we have the support you need to engage healthily with your university life and unlock your full potential.
Feel good and achieve more
Life as a musician can be both mentally and physically challenging, so looking after your mental health and emotional wellbeing is important. Making simple changes to how you live can improve your professional life as well as your personal one.
When asked about recent changes in the musicians’ world, Associate Head of Strings, Nick Stringfellow, says that “The 21st century musicians have to be versatile – they have to be entrepreneurs and equipped with portfolio careers, often being prepared to be manager, producer and artistic director of their own ventures. At the Conservatoire we provide specialist training to encourage students to fully develop their potential and embrace creativity, ambitious projects and off-centre ideas”.
Topics around wellbeing have been introduced in classes across all departments for the past few years and the type of wellbeing classes offered to students are constantly changed so that they are relevant to today’s ever-changing climate. Organised practice and preparation with the right mind-set is so important especially when practice time is limited. Head of Brass, Amos Miller, proudly promotes the importance of wellbeing in his classes by covering topics such as:
- Time management
- How to practise productively
- Breathing, both for playing and as a tool for relaxation
- Breakfast (it IS important)
- The relationship between posture and morale
- Visualisation, including discussions of developing imagery skills and mental rehearsal
- The concept of finding new ‘good’ habits in playing, as opposed to stopping ‘bad’ habits
- ‘Self- talk' - how we speak to ourselves before, during and after playing
Practise the pressure
We were the first Conservatoire in the UK to introduce a Performance Coaching and Mentoring programme, which borrows and adapts ideas used in sport psychology and the mental pressures it embraces. Led by Max Garrard, the programme is aimed at training students to manage their thought processes, both in the build-up to, and during performances.
Through individually tailored sessions and opportunities to perform in group situations, students can begin to understand why they feel anxious about performing. They can learn how to deal with feelings of anxiety in a positive way, so that they can perform at their best under pressure. These group sessions are a unique opportunity to ‘practise the pressure’, share ideas, offer feedback and become part of a supportive team of performers, all without being assessed!
Feel more comfortable in your own body with the Alexander Technique
‘If you stop the wrong thing, the right thing does itself’ – this is an idea by F.M. Alexander that goes back many centuries. RBC is committed to supporting your progress at the Conservatoire through the Alexander Technique, which focuses on practical means for personal change. You’ll be provided with a firm grounding in the principles of this technique to help improve vocal and instrumental skills and prevent problems in performance. By increasing awareness of how you use your body, you will learn fundamental skills which can significantly enhance performance (of any task, not just musical ones!).
You're not alone
Our own doubts and fears can easily overcome us and can quickly become an obstacle for performers at all levels, but you don’t have to get to crisis point before you talk to us. Whether it is public exposure that you are anxious about, technical difficulties that you are struggling with, or you have a matter in your private life that is getting in the way of enjoying life at university, there’s a solution to every problem. With appropriate advice and support, many problems are not only treatable, but preventable.
Our Mental health and wellbeing programmes are free and accessible to anyone, whether you are thinking about applying to the Conservatoire, in the process of applying or currently studying here. In addition to Birmingham City University wellbeing support services, RBC has its own bespoke classes and events - Yoga for the Vocal Faculty, Pilates for Woodwind and mindfulness classes are just a few activities where students can work towards becoming happier musicians.
Associate Head of Strings, Nick Stringfellow’s, advises not to measure yourself against others, but see your career at the Conservatoire as an opportunity to experiment, develop and establish you as a musician.
“We want all of our students to make a difference, and be the shakers and movers in the music profession” Head of Strings, Dr Louise Lansdown.