Music performance anxiety among college piano majors in Taiwan
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Music performance anxiety is common among musicians, and sometimes it severely affects public performance. Many musicians are not able to perform their best as a result of an increased anxiety level. The specific aim of this research study was an in-depth description of how college piano majors in Taiwan dealt with issues of music performance anxiety (MPA), how MPA was experienced and discussed, and how these factors were associated with students’ debilitating symptoms of MPA. I also sought to identify if college piano professors used any coping strategies, methods and techniques in teaching private piano students and how they helped students to manage with MPA. Research questions included a number of issues related to MPA, such as musicians’ musical development, previous exposure to stressful performance situations, the levels of their psychological and physiological arousal, their approaches to learning and motivation, their social and cultural backgrounds, their coping strategies, and how these factors were associated with students’ debilitating symptoms of MPA. A qualitative research methodology was employed to conduct a multiple case study with questionnaires and interviews. The participants were 122 college piano major students from three universities located in southern Taiwan—Tainan National University of the Arts, Tainan University of Technology, and National University of Tainan. The data collection began with two self-report MPA questionnaires—State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Performance Anxiety Inventory (PAI). After completion of the pre-screening questionnaires, the 20 participants with higher scores, which indicated greater anxiety levels, were selected for the semi-structured interviews. Findings from this study indicated that MPA was found to be a multidimensional construct, influenced by a variety of factors including internal factors (perfectionism, self-efficacy and confidence), external factors (evaluations and critical audience) and the cultural and societal factors (teachers’ and parents’ pressures). The majority of participants reported feeling low confidence about their abilities, sensitivity to fears of being compared and judged with others, and thus often interpreted their anxiety reactions and tensions as signs of vulnerability to poor performance, which significantly affect their confidence, self-worth, beliefs, focus, concentration, self-esteem, and severely diminished performance quality.