Support, services and educational opportunities

The Department offers a range of support, services and educational opportunities to help enhance musicians' health and wellbeing. Click on a section below to find out more.

Curriculum time

Across courses and modules, staff members are available to provide informal support to students as well as regular formal tutorials across the year.

There are also specified sessions within curriculum time ensuring that students have access to vital information about how to promote and protect their own health and wellness, as well as that of other musicians:

  • undergraduate 20-credit module entitled ‘Musicians’ Health and Wellness’ (Autumn Term 2019/20). See the module catalogue for more information
  • 30-minute studio induction for all who register to use the Department studios including basic coverage of physiology and anatomy of the human auditory system. Audiology and guidance on other aspects of safe studio working (eg electrical safety and trip hazards)
  • seminars for undergraduate recitalists focusing on performance-enhancing techniques for presentation and confidence (led by invited speakers)
  • seminars within the MA Music Education: Instrumental and Vocal Teaching course focusing on introducing students to health and wellness in their dual roles as learners and teachers (led by Dr Naomi Norton and other colleagues within the Department)
  • seminars within the MA Music Psychology pathway focusing on hearing protection and music performance anxiety (led by Dr Hauke Egermann)
  • IPC pre-sessional guest lecture for Arts and Humanities students entitled ‘Studying (Music) Healthily’ (led by Dr Naomi Norton) to introduce students to the support and advice on offer within the Department and University more broadly.

Performance classes and other events

The Department runs weekly performance classes that are open to all students, teachers, and staff members. This series includes sessions that focus on musicians’ health and wellness. For more information, and to see upcoming performance classes, please visit the performance classes webpage.

Confirmed health and wellness-related sessions in Autumn Term 2019:

Previous health and wellness-related sessions as part of the performance classes series: 

  • Introduction to musicians’ health and wellness (Dr Naomi Norton)
  • Performing with greater ease (Julie Parker)
  • Introduction to Alexander Technique (Julie Parker)
  • Warm-up exercises for singers (Yvonne Seymour)
  • You are not inadequate: mental health workshop (Enya Doyle)
  • Hearing health (with Finola Ryan from BAPAM)

Life coaching and Alexander Technique

Julie Parker is an ILM Level 7 equivalent Accredited Coach (with Distinction) and qualified teacher of the Alexander Technique with over 27 years experience. She has taken the University of York Mental Health First Aid short course. Julie worked for three years as part of primary healthcare in the NHS, and now works with students at the University.

Julie uses strategies for self-management and self-reliance and uses the principles of Alexander Technique, Coaching and Embodied Mindfulness to give students the experience of releasing physical, mental and emotional unhelpful tensions. These can take the form of:

  • muscular aches and pains due to misuse of the body, particularly resulting from long periods of practice or playing without attending to the correct structure and function of the body
  • performance anxiety
  • unhelpful (and usually inaccurate) beliefs which create anxiety and concomitant tension
  • emotional tensions due to difficulties in dealing with conflicts within the family or housemates, or in adjusting to new situations and responsibilities
  • anxieties arising out of poor time management or inability to structure project work
  • ‘secondary’ stresses arising from coping with friends who are in difficult situations.

Julie offers the following to students at the University:

  • free stretch, energy warm-up and meditation session in E/106, 9 to 9.45am every Monday for all staff and students
  • introductory workshop on Alexander Technique
  • free introductory one-to-one lesson
  • one-to-one or group lessons partially subsidised by the Department
  • masterclass style workshops by instrument type
  • use of the NLP technique of Anchoring to work with performance anxiety
  • development of video suite of warm up exercises using Alexander Technique to pay attention to the whole body while warming up specific muscles.

Find out more about Julie on her website.

Wellbeing space

The Department has a wellbeing space currently in development at the top of the stairs leading to E/118, E/119 and E/120.

This space is for students to support their wellbeing and is a place where information is provided relating to mental health and where students can take time to support each other.

Student suggestions for improvements to the space are welcome: please contact Mimi O’Neill (kon502@york.ac.uk), Catherine Duncan, Liz Haddon or Dr Naomi Norton.

Mental health first aid

Most members of staff in the Department have completed a half-day session on mental health first aid. 

The people listed below have completed the full two day course equipping them as Mental Health First Aiders:

If you would like to speak to someone from outside the Department who is qualified as a mental health first aider, please visit the Mental Health First Contact Network to find an appropriate person.

Family system

The Department implements numerous systems to help freshers integrate smoothly and with as little fear as possible: one way of doing this is the family system. Freshers are placed with two older students (who ‘marry’ each other and become parents) and other freshers who become siblings: through their family students have instant connections in Department and someone to talk to.

Parents become the ‘go to’ people for questions and worries as they will answer questions with empathy and enthusiasm, having previously been in the situation themselves. Another factor of the family system is that the family trees go a long way back, which allows for further connections in Department, often with older students through the hilarity of meeting your ‘Granddad’ or ‘Grandma’!

New students receive an email from the family system manager in September before their course starts and updates are also available via social media platforms. If you have any questions about the family system, please contact Darcy Thorpe (dt902@york.ac.uk). 

Quotations from existing members of the family system:

  • 'The family system really helps freshers integrate quickly and smoothly - by the end of the first year, it's all one huge family anyway!' (Oscar Ridout, BA Music)
  • 'Having a music family allowed me to get answers to questions I had about the department and course before I arrived, which made the experience much less stressful.' (Owen Butcher, BA Music)
  • 'The family system really helps the department bond together outside of lectures, and you know that there will be someone that you can talk to at any point.' (Helen Southernwood, BA Music)