Mental health among professional musicians
SSmith1226 last edited by SSmith1226
The following is an interesting video talking about mental health issues among professional musicians
I'm not sure that realizing your job doesn't pay what you'd like qualifies as a mental health issue.
I am with you J. Jericho those complaints in that clip are typical of all low paid jobs in USA and Europe in all sectors and professions, high hours, low pay, no tenure, having to hold down more than one job just to pay the rent.
At will workers in many states in USA like nurses or teachers can be sacked at a moments notice.
Look at that musical director in Birmingham Alabama who was conducting 150 band members at a high school game. They were supposed to be playing after the match it was all agreed and arranged that they play after the game.
They were part of the game like the cheerleaders or the ground staff or the coach and the football players.
The kids had all rehearsed long and hard for their appearance, they were in the middle of their set, the fans were still in the stadium and the school called the cops to kick the band out mid performance and shut off the lights in the stadium with fans and band still inside.
I believe laws pertaining to health and safety of fans and staff were broken by the school here in an effort to bully the musicians into obeying and leaving.
The director quite correctly in my opinion refused to silence the band mid performance and was then tazed by the cops and arrested. The kids were screaming seeing their director tazed and jumped on by the cops.
What about the safety of the musicians who lost their director when he was taken away to the cells.
This must have been traumatic for the school band, and the parents of the players, not to say very dangerous forcing the musicians to carry their instruments in darkness.
Musicians are treated as no better than criminals by many people, and are victimised for fun, I know what I am talking about here. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of physical abuse.
I have been physically attacked many times during performances.
Complaining about low pay and having to hold down a second job is just pathetic and laughable.
I dont think that musician in the clip could cope with the reality that we face as performing musicians every day of the week.
Of course we receive adulation and bouquets of flowers as well and that makes us continue.
The blues brothers movie showed it very well and truthfully, being showered with glass or beaten up in one venue and then receiving adulation in the next venue.
That is the way it is and how it has always been.
I was a music major 10 years ago. I knew a lot of very unhappy people. For some reason, I wasn't too worried about making an income. I ended up changing careers and becoming a software engineer, and I think that was the correct choice.
The professors I had may have been one of the biggest turnoffs to me. I've really never met a grumpier group of people. You work your whole life for this "dream job" and then live in fear that you'll lose it and have nothing to fall back on.
I believe the video is more reflective of stress in maintaining a viable career than it is in evaluating a mental health perspective.
When I searched the medical literature, there were articles all over the place regarding prevalence of mental health illness in musicians vs non-musicians. Of interest I found one article that showed professional musicians with no difference in mental health illness categories over other professions; however, amateur musicians had a more improved mental health spectrum over professional musicians and other professionals.
However the BEST article I could find was a systematic review that showed the following results:
In other words there is no difference in prevalence in musicians over other non-musician professionals:
Dr GO last edited by
From a personal (non-evidence based) perspective, as a primary care physician that practices in a challenging environment with a paucity of mental health professionals I have a high volume of patients in my medical practice that I am the primary medical provider that manages their mental health. I would even venture to say, that about a third of my practice involves managing mental health diagnoses. So of my entire panel of patients I would say I manage the mental health in about 300 patients. Of all those patients, I know of only one musician that I manage with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. So from my perspective, musicians are in a clear minority of the patients that I manage for mental heath diagnoses.
Yet another personal reflection of music impacting my own mental health. When I come home from a particularly stressful day at the office, I have the comfort of knowing I will be practicing my trumpet that evening, and taking the stress out on my horn. I find on the more stressful days that my performance is actually enhanced.
A final reflection: One day a situation developed within a medical residency training program I directed. I had a secretary state that she wanted to transfer from my office as she was uncomfortable working for an individual (me) that demanded such a high performance level out of her.
My chairman (my boss) became highly angered when that secretary contacted her that same day saying she wanted to resign her position. It only took 30 minutes for my chairman to come barreling into my office. Watching her approach my building and following her steps to my office actually reminded me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz when a ticked off wicked witch of the west was riding her bicycle in an angered mood.
Before she started yelling at me I first said: Dr. S, let me first say that I consider myself above anything else to be a musician first, and a physician second. As a musician, I prefer playing in a small jazz ensemble which is the way I run my program and my office. Why? Because I have more chance to interplay one on one with those in the ensemble, to solo off their lead and for them to solo off my lead. When a person in that ensemble finds they can no longer perform with the ensemble, they have the flexibility to leave. And you know, when I am playing in a jazz ensemble and the tension comes out of the horn, and the crowed hears that tension, it ends with applause and appreciation by the audience. not scolding or consternation as is more typical of a medical environment.
Now when I play in your ensemble, a large medical division, I see myself playing rather in orchestra with you as the director. In an orchestra, I regard my role as rather becoming your instrument, and as such I perform as you direct me to perform, and as a result of your excellent leadership as an orchestra director your department performs with excellence. I then stated let's respect that in a high function ensemble, small group versus a large orchestra, there are dynamic differences that are required to lead to the most successful performance possible. All I ask of you is you respect the differences between my small group ensemble and your orchestra.
My chairman immediately calmed down, stated "I see your point" got up and left my office without saying anything more. The next day I hired a new secretary that performed exceptionally well with my program and my chairman was even more happy with my new ensembles performance.
Wise words Dr-GO, musicianship in general and trumpet playing in particular is a very good therapy and is recognised as such.
When I am feeling down, and I generally do not suffer from this condition, I play and the problems evaporate.
Stress I feel comes in part from unrealised personal expectations.
Expecting high pay for our great skill and yet receiving low pay for that great skill is one cause of stress.
If we lower our expectations happiness can be the result.
I have very high standards but very few expectations other than being allowed to have a ball playing for both appreciative audiences and for myself.
Do we musicians deserve to be raised up. No, Doctors deserve that, charity workers deserve that, the emergency services deserve that, the armed forces deserve that.
So many in the world who are starving or have no water or are caught up in wars or suffer horrific injury deserve so much more than I do.
For a musician to complain because they dont earn enough money is taking yourself too seriously in my opinion.
We are all in this life together and so many suffer so much more than I or we musicians do.
I am not rich in money, I am enriched by music and will always be grateful to have my music and to help others through their lives by the meagre skills that I possess.
It is a privilege to be a musician.
I always have issues with so called R&D without a substantial sample base and R&D prior to the selection of questions. Ask the wrong questions and you can prove just about any results!
That being said, just like with any profession, there are those born with the talent (musicality, preserverance and business sense) and those that "learned how to play their instrument". The former probably would not take part in any "studies" and the latters response would depend if they had a reasonable paying job outside of music or not.
Dr GO last edited by
@ROWUK said in Mental health among professional musicians:
...The former probably would not take part in any "studies" and the latters response would depend if they had a reasonable paying job outside of music or not.
Yes and this is why isolated reports must be read with caution and questioning their reliability and internal bias. The systematic review I posted above is a larger study including many which brings us closer to the truth from the isolated studies I found based on small groups in a single location.