Exploring performance anxiety in classically trained musicians in relation to perfectionism, self-concept and interpersonal influences

  • Emese Hruska

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Perfectionism has been suggested as one of the main causes of music performance anxiety (MPA). Past research examining the relationship between perfectionism and MPA has not examined the factors underlying the development of these conditions. The present research addressed this gap by adopting a mixed methods study in three phases (qualitative-quantitative-qualitative) to investigate (i) the role that self-concept plays in musicians’ perfectionism and MPA, (ii) the way perfectionism affects the cognitive and physiological aspects of MPA, and (iii) the manner in which relationships with parents and teachers can influence musicians’ self-concept, perfectionism and MPA profiles.
The interview findings (Phase 1) suggested that maladaptive perfectionism and non-constructive thinking styles contributed to MPA, and the attitudes of parents and teachers influenced musicians’ identity and development, and their career choices.
These findings served as the foundation for administering a questionnaire (Phase 2) to professional and student musicians (N = 233). Results showed that positive self-concept with high self-esteem and musical self-image decreased MPA. The findings also revealed that musicians’ low confidence levels about their playing, experiencing distress and frustration to imperfections during practising and performance, and being dissatisfied with the quality of their performance, can increase MPA. Further, results disclosed that teachers’ autonomy supportive instruction styles contribute to the prevention of MPA and maladaptive perfectionism.
The findings of the in-depth interviews (Phase 3) suggested that focusing on the self and one’s preconceived ideas of achieving perfection creates tension, exacerbating the experience of MPA. In contrast, focusing ‘outside’ one’s self and aiming for perfection only in the practice room creates a sense of composure on stage which keep MPA levels low.
These findings lay the foundation for educational policy and practice which will approach developing musicians in autonomy supportive ways, and raise their awareness for positive aspects of their competence, performance standards and evaluation.
Date of Award13 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorDavid Hargreaves (Supervisor), Adam Ockelford (Supervisor) & Arielle Bonneville-Roussy (Supervisor)


  • Perfectionism
  • Music performance anxiety
  • Self-concept
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-determination theory
  • One-to-one music education
  • Music psychology
  • Mixed-methods research

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