Practice, Health & Well-being in the curriculum

Our introduction week for new students is called ‘Start-Up!’. During this week students attend presentations and workshops and get to know each other, the staff, and the conservatoire itself. Well-being is a recurring theme with sessions on organisation and time management, managing stress, and explorative practice. Since musicians face an above-average risk of damage to their hearing, the subject of how to protect your hearing is also covered. As a follow-up to the Start-Up! week, we offer Well-being Wednesdays throughout the year. These are thematic sessions on current topics, open to all students from all departments. Recent themes include mental health and stress, motivation, quality practice, mindfulness, diversity & inclusion, and injury prevention.

Bachelor students are assigned a tutor during the first three years of their studies. The tutor’s role is to help students reflect on their studies and to monitor their progress. Consultations with the tutor are confidential. In the Tutoring course, the tutor and student work with a ‘tutoring toolbox’ to enhance the students’ overall practice. This toolbox covers four stages of the learning process (foundation, intention, attention, and reflection) and helps students to develop their study skills. The student and the tutor jointly choose suitable projects or activities that fit the individual student. For example, students can decide to keep the reflective practicing journal ‘Musician’s Log’, developed by Susan Williams.

In addition to Tutoring, our bachelor students follow a three-part Educational Skills course. In this course they develop their metacognition, skills, and knowledge about the learning process in relation to their own development as a student and musician, as well as from a teaching perspective. Students learn how to create positive learning environments and get hands-on experience by teaching a pupil in the last part of the course. The publication Quality Practice by Susan Williams is used as part of the literature for this course.

Our vocal bachelor students learn about physical matters such as the principles of vocal health in the Anatomy/Phonetics course. There is a focus on bodywork, as part of the Stage Skills courses which prepare aspiring opera singers for performing and acting on the stage. The Bodywork course increases a student’s body awareness and teaches students how to move in a physically healthy way.

In regards to bachelor electives, we offer various electives relating to practice, health and well-being: Alexander Technique, Yoga for Musicians, and Bodywork – Dance. In addition to these physical courses, which are designed to help musicians move, breathe and play more freely, we offer the courses Quality Practice and Music Making, Practicing, and the Brain. Both courses offer practical guidelines to help students use their practice time efficiently and effectively and discuss and explore strategies for practicing, performance preparation and coping with performance anxiety.

Master students do not work with a tutor but receive guidance and support from their Master Project Network who will help them in realising a Master Project. This network consists of four experts: the main subject teacher, the research supervisor, the professional integration coach, and the master circle leader. The Master Project is an all-encompassing project which brings together the three elements of the master curriculum: artistic development, research, and professional integration, and helps to bridge the gap between music education and professional life. Once graduated, students have acquired the competences to continue to initiate their own artistic projects, which is a valuable skill in an uncertain professional music world. Within the Musical Training, Performance & Cognition focus area at the Royal Conservatoire, health and well-being related topics are regularly selected by master students. Examples of recent research topics are: preparing auditions, attentional focus, mental training, musicians’ motor learning, holistic practicing, embracing vulnerability in performance, performance anxiety, playing-related injuries, stress, and mindfulness.

The master programme offers a variety of electives relating to practice, health and well-being. Elective courses such as Performance Training, and Science & Psychology of Music Performance dive deeper into theoretical concepts, by reviewing empirical research from the fields of psychology, pedagogy, and neuroscience, and looking at students’ own practice and performance preparation. The elective Socially Engaged Artistic Practice includes short internships in the Music & Dementia project and the ProMiMiC – Meaningful Music in Healthcare project, This course introduces the necessary skills and knowledge to be a competent workshop practitioner. These Socially Engaged Artistic Practice projects focus on health & well-being in music from the point of view of the listener.

In addition to the above-mentioned Well-being Wednesdays, other health & well-being events take place alongside the curriculum. For example, the Early Music department offers an annual well-being workshop. The Classical Music department offers annual mental resilience training. This training focuses on self-confidence, motivation, anxiety and relaxation. The School for Young Talent students also pays attention to topics such as stress and performance anxiety.

In February 2023, our Symposium: Music as a Way of Life - towards a culture of practice took place in the Royal Conservatoire. In this symposium, members of the Royal Conservatoire community shared their expertise, inspired each other, and talked about what is important for musicians. Fifteen workshops took place, offered by our enthusiastic teachers, staff and students which made it a successful event for us, from us, and about us. The workshop themes covered different aspects of musicians’ health and learning for body (e.g. nutrition, Tai Chi), mind (e.g. mindfulness, focus strategies), as well as innovative approaches to music-making (both historical and contemporary), and creativity (e.g. guided improvisation). The symposium also included a powerful keynote lecture by Helena Gaunt, principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and a wonderful student concert in which Master students shared a poster which included information on their Master Project while performing repertoire which was linked to their Master Project.

The Bachelor of Dance programme includes a Health & Well-being course. It consists of lessons in Pilates, yoga, body conditioning, physical training, injury prevention, nutrition, and stretching. The focus of these sessions is to provide knowledge of the body’s anatomy and physiology, to discuss how to take care of your body, including correct nutrition, strengthening muscle groups, and the importance of properly warming up and stretching.

The Dance department has its own medical supervision team which consists of a physiotherapist, orthopaedist, paediatrician, dietician, practice coach, mental coach and medical coordinator. In addition to the medical staff, students have an individual study supervisor. Students can also make an appointment with the student counsellor or may be referred to the student counsellor by the management of the Dance department, in consultation with the department’s medical staff. Meetings with the student counsellor are always confidential.

Professional development for our teaching staff is highly valued at the Royal Conservatoire. Our staff are therefore invited to take part in our teacher development programme, The Artist as Teacher as well as a course on Teaching Quality Practice. These programmes aim to give teachers stimulating learning experiences to increase their knowledge and skills in educating conservatoire students. Subjects covered include how to provide feedback, the teacher-student relationship, understanding musical learning processes, and the professional perspectives for students. Conditions for learning are discussed, including motivation, self-beliefs, as well as health and well-being. The content of the courses are annually adjusted to include current topics, such as hybrid learning, diversity & inclusion, and unconscious bias.