An Exploration of Musical Performance Anxiety (MPA) and Its Relation to Perfectionism and Performance
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Musical Performance Anxiety (MPA) is a critical and common issue for musicians, as much of their success and income depends on their quality of performance. MPA is the experience of distressful apprehension about and/or impairment of performance, not reflecting the individual’s musical abilities. Since the pressure to perform their best is extremely high for musicians, striving for perfection in this field is typical. In my senior project, I investigated the elements and mechanisms behind the development of MPA and its relation to perfectionism. Seventeen Bard Conservatory musicians’ levels of MPA and perfectionism were assessed using established measures prior to their participation in the conservatory’s biannual blind orchestra placement auditions, where faculty evaluated their performance under pressure. I predicted a positive linear correlation between MPA and perfectionism, which was supported by my results, consistent with a role of perfectionism in MPA’s development. Additionally, based on the facilitating and debilitating aspects of MPA, I predicted a curvilinear relationship between performance and MPA, with a steep decline of performance at higher levels of MPA. I hypothesized a similar curve for performance and perfectionism, following the assumption that striving for perfection can motivate individuals to aim higher, but being too concerned about flawlessness has the opposite effect. These latter predictions failed to reliably materialize in the data, perhaps due to my limited sample and failure to account for perfectionism subtypes. Distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism may reveal more nuanced relationships along multiple performance dimensions. Positive results stemming from the correlational approach advanced here could inform our understanding of MPA and its treatment.
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Marko, Gitta, "An Exploration of Musical Performance Anxiety (MPA) and Its Relation to Perfectionism and Performance" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 83.
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