Health education for musicians in the UK: a qualitative evaluation

Health Promot Int. 2022 Apr 29;37(2):daab146. doi: 10.1093/heapro/daab146.


Musical training in higher education music institutions (e.g. conservatoires) has been associated with health-related issues among musicians. The Health Promotion in Schools of Music project in the USA and the Healthy Conservatoires project in the UK have therefore recommended health promotion at conservatoires. Few health education courses have been evaluated to date, however. A 5-month health education programme for first-year undergraduate students at a British conservatoire was introduced as part of the core curriculum in September 2016. The programme, which involved both lectures and seminars, was evaluated using quantitative and qualitative approaches. This article reports only the qualitative evaluation. Twenty semi-structured individual interviews were conducted either face-to-face or via Skype in April 2017. The data were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Five themes were identified: (i) the programme as a catalyst for engagement with health; (ii) behavioural changes; (iii) barriers to engaging with the programme material and initiating changes; (iv) suggestions for improvement; and (v) misinformation. Generally, participants viewed the programme as relevant and informative, particularly appreciating the intimate nature of the seminars. They reported that the programme helped them take a broader perspective on musicianship and that they would welcome sessions that are more practical than theoretical. They also reported instances of change in their behaviours relating to both lifestyle and management of music practice. In conclusion, undergraduate music students viewed this health education programme positively. Their feedback illustrates the complex nature of health promotion in the conservatoire setting.

Keywords: behaviour change; health promotion; music students; programme evaluation.

Plain language summary

Professional classical musicians struggle with a range of occupational health issues. It has therefore been recommended that health education be integrated as part of their higher education training. Although some programmes of this nature have been implemented in recent years, very few were evaluated, so it is often unclear if they work and if so, how. This paper reports the evaluation of one such programme that lasted 5 months and was delivered to first-year undergraduate music students in the UK. Although the evaluation of the programme was complex and involved many measurements, this article reports only the analysis of themes arising from interviews with 20 participants that were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The results of the analysis show that participants viewed the course positively. Specifically, they viewed the programme as relevant and informative, and appreciated the intimate nature of the seminars. The programme seemed to widen their perspective on musicianship and they reported changes in their behaviours related to preventative health and music practice, although they also expressed a preference for an even more practical and thus less theoretical approach.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • United Kingdom
  • Universities