Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Monna Arvinen-Barrow

Committee Members

Michael Brondino, Sheila Feay-Shaw, Russell Johnson, Stephen Wester


Lived experience, Musicians, Performance psychology, Psychological performance enhancement, Psychological skills, Systems-based approach


Contrary to sport, the study of performance enhancement in music is at an earlier stage of development in its research, practice, and performer acceptance (Pecen, Collins, & MacNamara, 2016). In the absence of music performance enhancement research, practitioners frequently utilize sport as a template to inform both research and applied practice with musicians to optimize performance (Hays, 2002, 2012). While sport provides an evidence-based framework for studying performance enhancement, musicians have unique performance considerations that differ from athletes (Pecen et al., 2016), and these divergences in domains are not well understood. Using the McLeroy framework (McLeroy, Bibeau, Steckler, & Glanz, 1988), the purpose of this research was to conceptualize psychological performance enhancement (PPE) in a music domain. This purpose was achieved by way of two studies as part of a sequential explanatory mixed-methods design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Study 1 (N = 459) used descriptive surveys to identify musicians’ psychosocial responses to performance, the psychological skills and strategies

that musicians use during practice/rehearsal and performance, and the professionals specialized in performance enhancement with whom musicians have worked. Building upon study 1, study 2 (N = 12) utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) to deeply explore musicians’ lived experiences of psychological performance enhancement. The results from descriptive and inferential statistical analyses revealed that the psychological skills musicians employ may not appropriately address their psychosocial responses to performance. Furthermore, musicians’ performance needs are limited by the psychological skills training (PST) model of practice (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996), as musicians seem to benefit from more mindfulness and acceptance-based models of performance enhancement (Gardner & Moore, 2007) that consider the well-being of the total performer and the environmental context. Results from the IPA demonstrated that the musicians employed a plethora of general and music-specific coping strategies to optimize performance, and also discussed various health and wellness behaviors, the influence that “others” play in the performance process (e.g., instructors, family), the influence of the external environment (e.g., acoustics, audience), the role of the music community (e.g., supportive behaviors, unsupportive behaviors), as well as the perceived access to and utilization of support systems as they relate to PPE. Musicians also considered seeking a performance psychology professional, preferably one with a background in music performance, so long as an individualized person-centered approach was utilized. Results support a systems-based approach to evaluating PPE in a music domain. Recommendations for musicians, educators/instructors, and performance psychology professionals are discussed, in addition to concerns related to musicians’ access to psychological performance enhancement services.