Lecturer in Musicians' Health and Wellbeing
BMus, LPsy, MSc, PhD, FHEA
Email: [email protected]
Dr Sara Ascenso is a clinical psychologist with a BMus in piano performance and an MSc and PhD focused on mental health in the performing arts sector. After working both as a psychologist in clinical settings and within educational projects, and as a collaborative pianist and piano teacher, Sara brings her two areas of work together through developing research and new HE curriculum on musicians’ wellbeing.
Current and Future Research
Sara’s research focuses on musicians’ mental health. She has also been involved in arts & health research, especially the investigation of the psychological impact of community music engagement for vulnerable populations. Current projects focus on musicians’ work orientation, work meaning, positive education in conservatoire settings and basic needs satisfaction at work in the creative industries.
- McCrary, J., Ascenso, S., Savvidou, P., Schraft, S., McAllister, L., Redding, E., Bastepe-Gray, S., & Altenmüller, E. (2022). Load and fatigue monitoring in instrumental musicians using an online app: A pilot study. Frontiers in Psychology, 1056892. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1056892
- Ascenso, S. (2021). Flourishing Through Music Creation: A Qualitative Investigation of the Lullaby Project Among Refugee and Incarcerated Communities. Frontiers in Psychology, 12:588905.
- Ascenso, S., Perkins, R., Atkins, L., Fancourt, D., & Williamon, A. (2018). Promoting wellbeing through group drumming with mental health service users and their carers. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Wellbeing, 13(1), article 1484219.
- Ascenso, S., Perkins, R., & Williamon, A. (2018). Resounding Meaning: A PERMA wellbeing profile of classical musicians. Frontiers in Psychology(9, 1895), 1-14.
- Ascenso, S., Williamon, A., & Perkins, R. (2017). Understanding the psychological wellbeing of professional musicians through the lens of positive psychology. Psychology of Music, 45, 65-81.
- Fancourt, D., Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Atkins, L., Kilfeather, S., Carvalho, L., Steptoe, A., & Williamon, A. (2016). Group drumming modulates cytokine response in mental health service users: a preliminary study. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics(85), 53–55.
- Fancourt, D., Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Carvalho, L., Steptoe, A., & Williamon, A. (2016). Effects of group drumming interventions on anxiety, depression, social resilience and inflammatory immune response among mental health service users. PLoS ONE, 11(e0151136), 1-16..
- Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Atkins, L., Fancourt, D., & Williamon, A. (2016). Making music for mental health: how group drumming mediates recovery. Psychology of Well-Being, 6(11), 1-17.
- Ascenso, S. Musicians’ Basic Psychological Needs at Work given at International Symposium on Performance Science, Schulich School of Music, October 2021
- The Lullaby Project: Refugee mothers and orchestral musicians mutually enhancing wellbeing given at 9th European Conference on Positive Psychology, Budapest, 2018
- Ascenso, S. Preventing Music Performance Anxiety given at King’s College London, London, 2018
- Ascenso, S. Mind the Mind: Findings on mental health in dance given at 28th Annual Conference of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, Helsinki, 2018
- Sayes, A., Ascenso, S., & Araújo, L. Do Beta-adrenergic receptor blockers have a place in the treatment of Music Performance Anxiety? given at International Symposium of the Performing Arts Medicine Association, Snowmass, Colorado., 2017
- Ascenso, S. Mind the Mind: A profile of mental health in the performing arts – graduate award keynote given at International Symposium on Performance Science, Reykjavík, 2017
- Ascenso, S. More than the absence of disorder: The lost lens on musicians’ psychological wellbeing given at International Symposium of the Performing Arts Medicine Association, Snowmass, Colorado, 2017
- Ascenso, S., McCormick, J., & Perkins, R. Minding the gap in musicians’ transition from student to professional: The Civic Fellowship at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra given at Proceedings of the 21st International Seminar of the ISME Commission on the Education of the Professional Musician, International Society for Music Education, University of St. Andrews, 2016
- Ascenso, S. Minding the gap in musicians’ transition from student to professional: The Civic Fellowship at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra given at 21st International Seminar of the ISME Commission on the Education of the Professional Musician, University of Saint Andrews, 2016
- Ascenso, S. Making Music for Mental Health: The psychological impact of learning to drum given at Proceedings of the International Symposium in Performance Science (pp. 62-63), Kyoto, 2015
- Ascenso, S. Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery: Making music for mental health given at Connected Communities Festival, Derby, 2015
- Ascenso, S. Allegro con Brio: The wellbeing of musicians given at Conservatório della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, 2015
- Ascenso, S. Health, Happiness and Meaning: A study of professional musicians’ wellbeing given at Reflective Conservatoire Conference, London, 2015
- Ascenso, S., & Williamon, A. Work-satisfaction and work-orientation of professional musicians given at 7th European Conference on Positive Psychology, Amsterdam, 2014
- Ascenso, S., & Perkins, R. ‘The more the merrier’? Understanding the wellbeing of professional musicians in collaborative and solo work settings given at Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science (pp. 383-388), Vienna, 2013
- Ascenso, S., Perkins, R., & Williamon, A. Allegro crescendo: Profiling wellbeing of classical professional musicians given at Third World Congress on Positive Psychology, Los Angeles, 2013
- Ascenso, S. and Perkins, R. The impact of community engagement for musicians. Classical Music Magazine, 2016, Rhinegold,
- Ascenso, S., Delle Fave, A., Perkins, R., & Williamon, A. (2022). Fostering Musicians’ Wellbeing In G. McPherson.(Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Music Performance . OUP.
- Ascenso, S., McCormick, J., & Perkins, R. (2019). Leadership in the transition from music student to professional musician: The Civic Orchestra of Chicago Fellowship In J. Rowley., D. Bennett., & P. Schmidt.(Eds.) Leadership of Pedagogy and Curriculum in Higher Music Education . Routledge.
- Ascenso, S., The Lullaby Project: Characteristics of Change and Mechanisms of Impact – Research Report, 2018, The Irene Taylor Trust, London
- Ascenso, S., Finding Meaning in Music: Research report, 2016, London Music Masters, London
- Music Performance Anxiety: Prevention and management workshop , Oxford, Oxford University, UK, March 2023
- Musicians’ wellbeing , External Lecture, Oxford University, UK, February 2023
- Positive Psychology: A new lens on musicians’ wellbeing , INTERACT guest lecture series, McGill University (online), March 2021
- Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery: Making music for mental health , Connected Communities Festival, Derby, , June 2015
- Prevention and Management of Music Performance Anxiety , Workshop, King’s College London, 2018
- Mental Skills for Optimal Performance , Crescendo Summer Institute of the Arts 2017, Tokaj, Hungary,
- Finding Meaning in Music , Seminar Series, Wigmore Hall, London, 2016
- Musicians’ Psychological Wellbeing , Crescendo Summer Institute of the Arts 2016, Tokaj, Hungary,
- Positive performers: New perspectives from psychology , Performance Matters: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Performers’ Practice, Health and Wellbeing, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, London, 2014
Chapters in Books
Talks, Workshops and Masterclasses
– Visiting lecturer and module leader (Resilience and Post-traumatic Growth) at the Executive Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, University of Lisbon
– Learning support advisor (Learning Enhancement Unit) at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
– Visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Music (MSc in Performance Science)