RNCM commits to supporting student health and wellbeing

The RNCM has pledged to increase its support for students, dedicating its 2018/19 Annual Appeal to Health and Wellbeing.

The music industry has changed significantly in recent years and young musicians face life in a fast-paced, challenging environment. It’s vital that students are in the best physical and mental health to not only complete their studies, but to develop successful and sustainable careers.

Sadly, the number of students reporting mental health concerns across Higher Education has risen sharply. Many are living on their own for the first time, and often face acute financial challenges. Their future is less clearly mapped out, and social media can add to their anxiety. Music students must also learn to handle the pressures of concerts and recitals, as well as long hours of practice. Any problems can upset their studies and affect how they cope after graduation.

Kathy Hart, RNCM Students’ Union President, says: ‘Every year, we welcome around 850 gifted students from over 60 countries. I know from my many conversations across campus that these individuals all share two things – a passion for music and a dream to become the best musicians they can be. I also know they wouldn’t be here without often more than a decade of dedication, sacrifice and hard work.

When I talk to friends, I see that the work needed to build such a difficult career can come at a price, both physically and psychologically. Like athletes, we must keep in peak condition to make the most of the opportunities we have fought so hard for. The more work we put in, the higher the stakes become – and the more devastating the impact if we are held back by injury or mental health struggles.’

The RNCM recognises the importance of health and wellbeing and already provides a wide range of care services and health activities for students. It has also taken a significant step forward by becoming the first conservatoire to appoint a specialist Lecturer in Musicians’ Health and Wellbeing.

Starting in January, Sara Ascenso – a chartered clinical psychologist and trained pianist – will continue to develop the health and wellbeing provision across the College, ensuring that it is holistic, tailored to musicians’ needs, research-based and embedded in the curriculum.

She says: ‘Adding to lecturing and research, the vision for the role also includes carefully monitoring the specific wellbeing needs of RNCM students and staff and looking at how the most recent findings in this area can shape our planning towards optimal delivery across a wide range of initiatives.

We want our students to learn how to make music with excellence but also how to live fulfilling lives as musicians and as human beings more generally. This means that what they are learning is not only about doing but also about being. We want to maximize our efforts to make sure they experience what being well as a musician means during their time at the RNCM.’

Launching today (Monday 26 November), the RNCM’s Annual Appeal will greatly expand the College’s support for students over three layers:

  • Helping more students who are struggling right now, by providing extra frontline counselling sessions in evenings and at peak times when performance pressures are at their greatest.
  • Identifying and preventing issues, by training all staff in mental health and expanding its team of mental health first aiders, making it easier to spot students who may be at risk as early as possible.
  • Promoting wellbeing activities, for example by putting on more yoga sessions to help prevent injury, and by extending its community outreach, so that more students experience the life-enhancing benefits of working with people in need.

For more information on ways to get involved, click here.


26 November 2018