Royal College of Music
  • London, United Kingdom
Recent publications
Background Postnatal depression (PND) affects 13% of new mothers, with numbers rising during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this prevalence, many women have difficulty with or hesitancy towards accessing pharmacological and/or psychological interventions. Group-based mother-baby activities, however, have a good uptake, with singing improving maternal mental health and the mother-infant relationship. The recent lockdowns highlight the importance of adapting activities to an online platform that is wide-reaching and accessible. Aims The SHAPER-PNDO study will primarily analyse the feasibility of a 6-week online singing intervention, Melodies for Mums (M4M), for mothers with PND who are experiencing barriers to treatment. The secondary aim of the SHAPER-PNDO study will be to analyse the clinical efficacy of the 6-week M4M intervention for symptoms of postnatal depression. Methods A total of 120 mothers and their babies will be recruited for this single-arm study. All dyads will attend 6 weekly online singing sessions, facilitated by Breathe Arts Health Research. Assessments will be conducted on Zoom at baseline and week 6, with follow-ups at weeks 16 and 32, and will contain interviews for demographics, mental health, and social circumstances, and biological samples will be taken for stress markers. Qualitative interviews will be undertaken to understand the experiences of women attending the sessions and the facilitators delivering them. Finally, data will be collected on recruitment, study uptake and attendance of the programme, participant retention, and acceptability of the intervention. Discussion The SHAPER-PNDO study will focus on the feasibility, alongside the clinical efficacy, of an online delivery of M4M, available to all mothers with PND. We hope to provide a more accessible, effective treatment option for mothers with PND that can be available both during and outside of the pandemic for mothers who would otherwise struggle to attend in-person sessions, as well as to prepare for a subsequent hybrid RCT. Trial registration Identifier: NCT04857593 . Registered retrospectively on 22 April 2021. The first participants were recruited on 27 January 2021, and the trial is ongoing.
Recent research shows that musical training improves children’s development of oral and aural skills. This study focuses on developing and testing a methodological framework (Music as a Medium of instruction, MMI) in English language teaching (ELT) by contrasting MMI and gamification methodologies with the participation of 22 Spanish children all born in 2008. The differences in progression between participants with and without previous instrumental training are also discussed. Generalized linear model procedures were used for each outcome variable (listening comprehension and oral production skills) to investigate the effect of independent variables (MMI vs. gamification; students with music training vs. learners without music training). Results revealed that students of the MMI group had significantly higher scores than the gamification group in oral production. Significant improvement was traced in listening comprehension in the MMI group. This study provides promising initial evidence that the MMI approach can be at least as beneficial as gamification-based approaches for young learners in the ELT classroom. However, results need to be established on firmer grounds, for instance by using fully randomized experimental designs and by conducting mediation analyses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the arts sector, disrupting livelihoods and professional networks and accentuating the instability that is common for creative workers. Gaps in support for grassroots organisations and freelance workers have highlighted structural inequalities within the industry, and the significant challenges for individual workers in the early stages of their career. Yet, the pandemic has also emphasised the importance of the arts as a community resource and its role in supporting wellbeing and togetherness. This qualitative study explored the experiences of the pandemic for early career arts workers, focusing on its impacts upon their livelihoods and how it has shaped their future career directions. Sixteen arts and cultural workers across a variety of sectors including theatre, film, circus, music, and literature participated in solo, semi-structured interviews during April–June 2021. Thematic analysis identified three overarching themes: (i) ‘Pandemic precarity and creative practice’, (ii) ‘PostCOVID I: Inclusivity and diversifying audiences’, and (iii) ‘PostCOVID II: Adapting, developing, and disrupting cultural practices’. Overall, the experiences capture an early career workforce that, while committed and engaged with their creative practice, also seeks a more equitable, fairer, and diverse industry that protects artists and engages more flexibly with broader audiences.
Objectives This study investigated how adults in the UK perceived their arts and cultural engagement to facilitate social connectedness at two time points in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Study design The study used the HEartS Survey, a newly designed online survey tool to capture arts engagement in the UK and its associations with social and mental wellbeing, over two phases in 2020: March-May (Phase 1) and October (Phase 2). Methods Qualitative data were provided at both phases by 581 respondents, who identified which arts and cultural activity they felt most connected them to others and how during the last month. Results Thematic analysis revealed that, at both phases, arts and cultural engagement was perceived to facilitate social connectedness through four pathways that were also identified pre-pandemic: social opportunities; sharing; feelings of commonality and belonging; and collective understanding. The sub-themes shed light on specific ways that respondents used the arts during the pandemic to connect with others, including using the arts: as a catalyst for conversations, to maintain, reinstate, or strengthen relationships during social distancing, and to facilitate social interactions (Theme 1); to bring people together through shared experiences and sharing of art (Theme 2); to elicit feelings of direct and indirect proximity to others, to connect people with common interests, to feel a sense of belonging to something, and to feel part of a collective ‘COVID-19 experience’ or to feel collectively distracted from the pandemic (Theme 3); to learn from and about other people and to relate to others (Theme 4). The activity most frequently cited as connecting was watching a film or drama, followed by listening to music. Conclusions Engagement in arts and cultural activities supported feelings of social connection among adults in the UK at two time points in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of access to the arts and culture to support social connectedness.
A significant number of studies suggest that engagement with music, in its different forms, can play an important role in terms of health and well-being for a diverse range of people, including older adults. Research focusing on the impact of these activities on the practitioners, namely the musicians carrying out the interventions, is at a more preliminary stage. This study investigated how tertiary-level music students experienced group music making with residents in nursing homes. A music team delivered ten weekly music sessions in four nursing homes, focusing on singing, rhythm-based activities with percussion instruments and listening to short, live performances. The team was composed of an experienced workshop leader, a researcher and nine student musicians enrolled in an elective seminar. Qualitative data were collected from the students through semi-structured interviews and oral diaries and analysed using thematic analysis. The results show that the overall experience had a positive impact on students in both professional and personal dimensions. The findings are discussed using the lenses of mutual recovery and the PERMA model of well-being.
Introduction: Postnatal depression (PND) affects approximately 13% of new mothers. Community-based activities are sought after by many mothers, especially mothers that prefer not to access pharmacological or psychological interventions. Singing has shown positive effects in maternal mood and mother-child bonding. The Scaling-Up Health-Arts Programmes: Implementation and Effectiveness Research-Postnatal Depression study will analyse the clinical and implementation effectiveness of 10-week singing sessions for PND in new mothers. This protocol paper will focus on the clinical effectiveness of this trial. Methods and analysis: A total of 400 mothers with PND (with a score of at least 10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) and their babies will be recruited for this hybrid type II randomised controlled trial. The intervention group will attend 10 weekly singing sessions held at community venues or online, facilitated by the arts organisation, Breathe Arts Health Research (Breathe). A control group will be encouraged to attend non-singing sessions in the community or online for 10 weeks. A package of assessments will be collected from participants for clinical, mechanistic and implementation outcomes, at different stages of the trial. Clinical assessments will include questionnaires and interviews for demographics, mental health and social measures, together with biological samples for measurement of stress markers; the study visits are at baseline, week 6 (mid-trial) and week 10 (end of trial), with follow ups at weeks 20 and 36. Multiple imputation will be used to deal with possible missing data and multivariable models will be fitted to assess differences between groups in the outcomes of the study. Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval has been granted by the London-West London and GTAC Research Ethics Committee, REC reference: 20/PR/0813. Trial registration number: NCT04834622; Pre-results.
The Lullaby Project is an innovative model developed to support with vulnerable groups through community-based music creation. It pairs expectant and new mothers with professional musicians, to create a lullaby for their children. This paper presents an investigation of the project’s pilot implementation in the United Kingdom, bringing together musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, refugee mothers and inmate fathers from a central London prison. The research aimed to understand how the Lullaby Project was experienced, focusing on the potential areas of perceived change linked with the concept of mental health as flourishing. Participants (N=12) took part in semi-structured interviews and kept daily notes to aid recollection of the sessions in the interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was adopted as the research approach. Participants considered the project to carry significance for them in three key areas: (1) wellbeing, through a strong sense of accomplishment, meaning and connectedness, and the experience of positive emotions; (2) proactivity, promoting initiative, both musical and relational; and (3) reflectiveness, stimulating perspective-taking and positive coping mechanisms. The Lullaby Project offers an effective model towards promotion of flourishing among vulnerable groups, and the results make a strong case for its implementation.
Objectives Arts engagement has been positively linked with mental health and well-being; however, socio-economic inequalities may be prevalent in access to and uptake of arts engagement reflecting on inequalities in mental health. This study estimated socio-economic inequality and horizontal inequity (unfair inequality) in arts engagement and depression symptoms of older adults in England. Trends in inequality and inequity were measured over a period of ten years. Study design This is a repeated cross-sectional study. Methods In this analysis, we used data from six waves (waves 2 to 7) of the nationally representative English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. We estimated socio-economic inequality using concentration curves that plot the distribution of arts engagement and depression symptoms against the distribution of wealth. A concentration index was used to measure the magnitude of the inequality. Unfair inequality was then calculated for need-standardised arts engagement using a horizontal inequity index (HII). Results The study sample included adults aged 50 years and older from waves 2 (2004/2005, n = 6620) to 7 (2014/2015, n = 3329). Engagement with cinema, galleries and theatre was pro-rich unequal, i.e. concentrated among the wealthier, but inequality in depression was pro-poor unequal, i.e. concentrated more among the less wealthy. While pro-rich inequality in arts engagement decreased from wave 2 (conc. index: 0·291, 95% confidence interval 0·27 to 0·31) to wave 7 (conc. index: 0·275, 95% confidence interval 0·24 to 0·30), pro-poor inequality in depression increased from wave 2 (conc. index: −0·164, 95% confidence interval -0·18 to −0·14) to wave 7 (conc. index: −0·189, 95% confidence interval -0·21 to −0·16). Depression-standardised arts engagement showed horizontal inequity that increased from wave 2 (HII: 0·455, 95% confidence interval 0·42 to 0·48) to wave 7 (HII: 0·464, 95% confidence interval 0·42 to 0·50). Conclusions Our findings suggest that while socio-economic inequality in arts engagement might appear to have reduced over time, once arts engagement is standardised for need, inequality has actually worsened over time and can be interpreted as inequitable (unfair). Relying on need-unstandardised estimates of inequality might thus provide a false sense of achievement to policy makers and lead to improper social prescribing interventions being emplaced.
Objective: This national cross-sectional study aims to establish the prevalence and potential impact of performance anxiety among surgeons and investigate its association with psychological traits and wellbeing. Summary and background data: Despite a growing awareness that human factors, non-technical skills and wellbeing in healthcare affect patient outcomes, an area that has remained unexplored is surgical performance anxiety (SPA). Methods: A prospectively registered, cross-sectional study using mixed methods was conducted across the United Kingdom. Data captured included demographics, surgical specialty, trait anxiety, trait perfectionism, SPA, and surgical perfectionism scores. Wellbeing was assessed using The Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, whereas qualitative data were collected regarding surgeons' experiences of SPA. Results: A total of 631 responses were collected. Mean age was 41·2 years and mean surgical experience 15·3 years. A total of 62% were male and 52% of consultant/attending grade. A total of 100% felt that SPA affected surgeons, with 87% having experienced it themselves. A total of 65% reported SPA negatively impacted surgical performance and 96% felt SPA negatively impacted surgeons' wellbeing. Male surgeons reported significantly better wellbeing than female surgeons. Surgeons with SPA reported significantly worse wellbeing compared with surgeons who did not experience SPA. Surgeons in general experienced significantly lower mental wellbeing compared with population norms. Thematic analysis highlighted a reticence to share SPA openly and need for cultural change. Conclusions: Surgical performance anxiety is a very common and significant challenge among surgeons across all specialties at all levels of experience in the United Kingdom. It is perceived by surgeons to affect surgical performance adversely and is associated with worse psychological wellbeing. A more open culture of sharing and acknowledgment has been identified to be beneficial.
Background. Making and listening to music can be beneficial for older adults. However, little is known about how and to what extent those who live in nursing homes have access to music and the functions that music plays in their lives. Methods. This study involved 20 residents who volunteered from six nursing homes in Switzerland. Each resident was interviewed, and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results. For many residents, their access to music decreased after moving into their nursing home, and many of them wanted more musical experiences in their daily lives, both with music from their pasts and with unfami-liar repertoire. Music was strongly connected to their sense of identity and elicited positive emotions. Musical activities offered by the nursing homes also stimulated social interactions. Conclusions. Music plays a central role in facilitating positive well-being and quality of life in nursing homes.
Background Loneliness is a public health challenge, associated with premature mortality and poorer health outcomes. Social connections can mitigate against loneliness, and there is evidence that the arts can support social connectedness. However, existing research on the arts and social connectedness is limited by focus on particular age groups and arts activities, as well as a reliance on typically small-scale studies. Methods This study reports survey data from 5892 adults in the United Kingdom, closely matched to the national profile in terms of sociodemographic and economic characteristics. It investigates the extent to which arts engagement is perceived to be linked with feelings of social connectedness, which forms of arts engagement are reported as most connecting, and how. Data were collected via the HEartS Survey , a newly designed tool to capture arts engagement in the United Kingdom and its associations with social and mental health outcomes. Demographic and quantitative data, pertaining to the extent to which arts engagement is perceived to be linked with social connectedness, were analysed descriptively. Qualitative data pertaining to respondents’ perceptions of how arts engagement is linked with feelings of social connectedness were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results Results demonstrated that the majority of respondents (82%) perceive their arts engagement to be linked with feelings of social connectedness at least some of the time. The forms of arts engagement most linked with feelings of social connectedness were attending a live music performance, watching a live theatre performance, and watching a film or drama at the cinema or other venue. Four overarching themes characterise how arts engagement is perceived to facilitate feelings of social connectedness: social opportunities, sharing, commonality and belonging, and collective understanding. Conclusions The findings suggest that arts engagement can support social connectedness among adults in the UK through multiple pathways, providing large-scale evidence of the important role that the arts can play in supporting social public health.
Some autistic children display an intuitive capacity to reproduce and restyle the musical stimuli that they encounter in their environments. Music also offers a safe space for the development of social competencies and, across the spectrum, musical interventions are regarded as an effective way of promoting engagement with others. Yet, there is a lack of empirically researched music programs for parents and carers of children with autism. In this study, 11 families with autistic children incorporated music making into everyday life, supported by researcher-practitioners and framed by resources outlining musical activities based on the Sounds of Intent in the Early Years framework. Assessment of video data and interviews revealed that the new resources were flexible enough to be adapted to each child and they helped parents to build confidence to engage with their children musically. It was found that children had an increased interest and engagement in music as well as in joint play, which impacted positively on their musical and social development. The interpersonal music spaces created by the parents provided opportunities for unlocking expressiveness and interactive behavior, which in turn supported verbal development, emotional regulation and social interaction. These findings have implications for arts-in-health research and highlight the potentially crucial role of parents as mentors for their child’s musical development. The study further demonstrates that specialist musical training is not a requirement to develop parent–child engagement in music making at home.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted music education across the world, resulting in radical changes to the field of practice, accelerating a ‘turn’ toward online digital musical experiences. This digital ‘turn’ is likely to influence the future of music education in a variety of complex and inter-connected ways. In this special issue, we explore the implications of such a ‘turn’ for music educators and their students / participants, and highlight some of the ways in which music researchers and educators have responded to the crisis. We hope these narratives will help illuminate some of the ways in which music education might recover its equilibrium, as well as make a contribution more generally to the complex business of human recovery in a post-COVID world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made online and distance learning the new normal at all levels of education. Music as a school subject that relies heavily on multimodal sensory and auditory-motor interactions has been dramatically affected. Music teachers may not be coping mentally or psychologically with these drastic changes. This study examined the psychological impact of COVID-19 on music teachers’ (N = 120) mental health and well-being through a questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews (n = 10). The Fear of Coronavirus-19 Scale, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale and a shortened version of the Chinese Teacher Stress Questionnaire were used to measure Hong Kong music teachers’ experiences of psychological pressure and problem behaviours linked to the outbreak of the infectious disease. The findings revealed that music teachers are experiencing stress, fear, and anxiety in response to the pandemic. They are concerned about the effectiveness of online music teaching, parental expectations, students’ adaptability to online learning, technological integration and maintaining transformative teaching professionalism.
Evidence on the role of the arts in promoting health and wellbeing has grown over the last two decades. In the United Kingdom, studies using secondary data sources have documented temporal variations in levels of arts engagement in the population, its determinants and its mental wellbeing implications. However, arts engagement is often characterized by prioritizing “high-brow” art forms. In this article, we introduce the HEartS Survey , a tool that aims to increase the balance between inclusivity and brevity of existing arts engagement measures and to focus specifically on the connection between arts engagement and social wellbeing. We explore trends in participatory and receptive engagement with literary, visual, performing, crafts and decorative arts among 5,338 adults in the UK in 2018–2019 using summative engagement scores and cluster analysis. Regression models, adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic, health, and social covariates, examine correlations between arts engagement and psychological and social wellbeing measures. Over 97% of respondents reported engagement in one or more arts activities at least once during 2018–2019, with reading and listening to music being the most popular activities. Arts engagement grouped into three distinct clusters: 19.8% constituted “ low engagers ” whose main source of engagement was occasional reading; 44.4% constituted “ receptive consumers ” who read and listened to music frequently and engaged with popular receptive arts activities such as cinema, live music, theater, exhibitions, and museums; and 35.8% constituted “ omnivores ” who frequently engaged in almost all arts activities. In agreement with existing studies, more arts engagement was associated with higher levels of wellbeing, social connectedness, and lower odds of intense social loneliness. In contrast, we found a positive association between more arts engagement, depression, and intense emotional loneliness for the most highly engaged omnivores . We conclude that arts engagement in the population forms specific profiles with distinct characteristics and consider implications for mental and social wellbeing.
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354 members
Neta Spiro
  • Centre for Performance Science
Aaron Williamon
  • Centre for Performance Science
Dave Camlin
  • Music Education
George Waddell
  • Centre for Performance Science
Terry Clark
  • Centre for Performance Science
Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BS, London, United Kingdom
Head of institution
Prof Colin Lawson