Article originally published in:

Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain 

march 2014 special edition on Interactions between Emotion and Cognition in Music

Is Music Performance Anxiety Just an Individual Problem?

Exploring the Impact of Musical Environments on Performers’ Approaches to Performance and Emotions

Article originally published in the march 2014 special edition on Interactions between Emotion and Cognition in Music of the journal Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain 

Elsa Perdomo-Guevara

University of Sheffield 


This study investigated the relationships between performers’ musical genre, the way they think about performance, and their performance-related emotions. Through an online survey including 625 participants, emotions experienced during performance, practice, and daily life, as well as conceptualisations of a recent highly enjoyable public performance, were investigated. Comparison of emotions experienced by performers belonging to the western classical music environment and performers belonging to other (“non-classical”) musical genres showed that classical performers reported significantly fewer positive, and more negative, performance-related emotions than their counterparts. Moreover, the 2 groups differed significantly in their emotional profiles (that is, their characteristic way of experiencing performance in relation to practice and daily life). In addition, the groups differed regarding their approach to performance. Approaches were inferred through principal component analysis on all the statements performers chose when asked to explain or describe their last highly enjoyable performance. Classical performers were significantly less people-oriented and more self-oriented than non-classical performers. The findings suggest that different milieus (namely classical and non-classical) emphasize different kinds of concerns; these lead to distinctive approaches to performance that, in turn, result in more or less rewarding experiences. Therefore, music performance anxiety may not be an exclusively individual problem, but rather a problem partly determined by the concerns that are emphasized by a performer’s cultural group.

Keywords: music performance anxiety, culture, cognition, emotion, music genre

The article starts with a review of the findings on MPA, focusing in particular on the relationship that has been found between MPA and the performers’ way of thinking about performance. It then discusses the impact of culture—the tendency of groups to develop a characteristic hierarchy of goals, values, and associated behaviours— on individuals’ cognitions and emotions, and suggests that performers belonging to different environments, such as classical and non-classical, are exposed to a different hierarchy of values and goals. These different values and goals impact on the criteria according to which performers appraise their musical activities, leading to different qualities of emotional experiences.

Cultural environments appear to impact on the way individuals appraise events and, as a consequence, on their emotional experiences (Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2006; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Schwartz, 1992, 2006; Turner & Stets, 2008). However, although music performance anxiety (MPA) has been extensively investigated (Gabrielsson, 2003), little is known about the impact of cultural factors on MPA. To fill this gap in current research, the study explored how classical and non-classical performers differed in the way they experienced two important aspects of their music making, namely practice and public performance. It also compared the emotions that the two groups reported during performance with those they reported during their daily life and with their particular approach to performance.

Understanding Music Performance Anxiety

MPA is a prevalent problem among musicians (Kenny, 2005; Steptoe, 2001; Steptoe & Fidler, 1987) that may have devastating effects on their well-being and careers (Nagel, 2010). It appears to be a complex phenomenon that results from the interplay of various factors, such as the performer’s personal characteristics, the degree of task mastery, the stress of the particular situation (Cox & Kenardy, 1993; Hamann, 1982; LeBlanc, Jin, Obert, & Siivola, 1997; Wilson & Roland, 2002;), and the performers’ thoughts about performance. Personal characteristics associated with MPA include trait anxiety (Cox & Kenardy, 1993; Kenny, Davis, & Oates, 2004; Lehrer, Goldman, & Strommen, 1990; Osborne & Kenny, 2008; Steptoe & Fidler, 1987), perfectionism and/or excessive need for control (Mor et al., 1995; Wilson & Roland, 2002), neuroticism, introversion, and proneness to social phobia (Craske & Craig, 1984; Steptoe & Fidler, 1987; Wilson, 1997). These personal characteristics, or “basic tendencies” seem to be at least partly biologically determined (McCrae et al., 2000: p. 174).

MPA has also been shown to correlate with certain kinds of cognitions, that is, negative self-talk, preoccupation about “not being good enough,” concerns about others’ negative evaluation, fear of humiliation, “catastrophisation” (believing that minor errors may have catastrophic consequences), or other irrational beliefs, such as the conviction that one must be perfectly competent at musical performance to be a worthwhile person (Dews & Williams, 1989; Kendrick, Craig, Lawson, & Davidson, 1982; Kenny & Osborne, 2006; Osborne & Kenny, 2008; Steptoe & Fidler, 1987; Wilson & Roland, 2002).

The impact of cognition on emotion is widely acknowledged, and is particularly emphasized by appraisal theorists who argue that it is not reality per se that elicits emotions, but rather the subject’s appraisal, or subjective evaluation, of this reality (Frijda, Manstead, & Bem, 2000; Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1990). Cog- nitive processes seem to determine the relevance of events as well as elicit and differentiate emotions (Scherer, 2005). Frijda highlights the predictable causal relation that exists between cognition and emotion, claiming that the subjects’ appraisals of events inexorably determine the emotions that they will experience (Frijda, 1988). He adds that such appraisals are done “in response to events that are important to the individual’s goals, motives, or concerns” (Frijda, 1988, p. 351).

People’s goals, motives, and concerns are not exclusively personal, however, but appear to be strongly influenced by the culture to which they belong. Turner and Stets define culture as

systems of symbols that humans create and use to regulate their behaviours and interactions, with the key elements of culture including emotion ideologies (appropriate feelings and emotional responses in different situations), emotion stocks of knowledge (emotional experiences that build up over time and become available for use in interaction), emotion vocabularies, and feeling and display rules.

They further state that “these elements are invoked and used to guide social structure and individuals’ cognitions” (Turner & Stets, 2008, pp. 32–33).

It appears that groups tend to develop a unique cultural identity with characteristic thoughts, goals, and behaviours differing from other groups’ in the outcomes they prescribe and the value systems and priorities they hold (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Schwartz, 1992, 2006). For example, some cultures particularly encourage individualism, self-enhancement, or autonomy, whereas others rather praise collectivism, self-transcendence, or embeddedness (Scherer & Brosch, 2009). Hence, groups differ in the issues they make salient (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002), issues that become “chronically accessible” (Bargh, Lombardi, & Hig- gins, 1988), and ones that likely impact on the way individuals appraise events (Mesquita, Frijda, & Scherer, 1997).

Similarly, Damasio argues that culture impacts on the kind of information individuals attend to, as well as on the way they interpret and evaluate such information; culture also establishes the appropriate emotional responses and consequent behaviour (Damasio, 1999). Accordingly, it seems that culturally shaped beliefs, goals, and values may lead to “systematic appraisal biases” that will impact on individuals’ emotions, as they determine “the relative frequency with which different types of emotion occur in particular cultural settings as a reaction to structurally similar situations” (Scherer & Brosch, 2009, p. 283). In agreement with this, Jarymowicz and Bar-Tal claim that a group’s exposure to common information, symbols, models, emphases, values, norms, narratives, attitudes, influences, and learning promotes a “collective emotional orientation” (Jarymowicz and Bar-Tal, 2006, p. 368). They explain: “When beliefs and reaction patterns are disseminated and widely shared, they constitute a major influence on the emotional functioning of society members” (Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2006, p. 376). Members of groups appear to be socialized or trained to think, act, and feel in particular ways (Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2006; Triandis & Suh, 2002).

Culture therefore seems to shape emotions by highlighting the “concerns” according to which people should appraise events, and prescribing the hierarchy of values and goals that should guide their behaviour as well as the meaning they should confer on events. It follows from the above that cultural factors should be taken into account when studying emotional experiences. For instance, are performers’ concerns, or their approaches to performance, shaped by the group to which they belong? Little research has looked into the impact of culture on performers’ cognitions and emotions, but recent findings suggest that the performers’ musical genre impacts on the priorities they hold—that is, making music for fun seems to be more important for non-classical musicians than it is for classical musicians (Creech et al., 2008)—as well as on the emotions they experience: classical performers seem to have higher levels of performance anxiety than their non-classical counterparts (Papa- georgi, Creech, & Welch, 2011).

In summary, it seems that both personal dispositions and culture have an influence on cognitions and emotions. Therefore, performers coming from different musical genres, namely classical and non-classical, may have different ways of experiencing their practice and their performance, as the groups seem to emphasize different concerns and promote different approaches toward these activities. To explore these differences, the reports of classical and non-classical performers were compared in two main areas: emotion (the positive and negative emotions performers reported experiencing in three different settings: performance, practice, and daily life) and cognition (inferred from the statements that per- formers chose to describe or explain their last highly enjoyable performance experience).

Comparing emotional experiences between groups may point to “systematic appraisal biases” (Scherer & Brosch, 2009), resulting from the salient values, beliefs, and goals (core cultural concerns) peculiar to a group, that may promote or hinder best experiences. Given the impact that culture seems to have on performers’ thoughts and emotions, it is essential to explore the performers’ emotional experiences within the context of their cultural back- ground and see, for instance, whether cultural concerns could be partly responsible for the high prevalence of MPA among classical performers. This would have numerous implications for education as well as for interventions.

The Questionnaire

A questionnaire was administered using an online survey Web site. The goal of the research was explained; simple instructions were given regarding completing the questionnaire; and the ethical procedures were outlined as approved by the University of Sheffield ethics committee: namely, questionnaires were anonymous, no data were personally identifiable, and participation was voluntary. Participants were given the option to leave their email address if they were willing to be contacted for follow-up questions, and were given the investigator’s contact details in case they wanted further information about the research. The survey was addressed to professional and amateur performers, as well as to students of all genres of music and, to foster the participation of performers coming from different countries, it was translated into Spanish, French, and Portuguese with the assistance of native speakers.

The questionnaire consisted of 36 questions and took around 10 min to complete. Performers had to select, from a pre-established list of emotions, evaluations, and statements, the ones that best reflected their own experience. Most questions were multiple choice, and allowed either one or multiple answers. The questions investigated

the respondent’s demographic and musical background (i.e., age, main instrument, years of playing, main genre);

the emotions they reported:

the frequency with which they experienced a pre-established list of emotions—elation, joy, positive arousal, confidence, feeling unmotivated, worry, and fear—in three different set- tings: daily life, musical practice, and music performance (performers had to report on whether they felt each emotion rarely, sometimes, or most of the time) self-evaluation of their performance experiences during the previous year (“Think of your public performances during the last year. You experienced most of these performances as stressful, emotionally neutral, moderately enjoyable or highly enjoyable.”);

the respondents’ cognitions:

a list of 23 statements expressing feelings and thoughts they might have had during their last highly enjoyable performance experience, of which they could select as many as applied to them (shown in Table 2); and a list of 13 statements describing or explaining their most recent “non-enjoyable” performance.

These statements described or explained the experiences either in terms of achievement, connectedness, or transcendence. They were based on the findings of a previous case study that had investigated the discourses of three professional musicians who love to per- form, and which suggested that highly joyful experiences might often include a self-transcendent and connectedness-oriented approach to performance (Guevara, 2007).

Owing to the limited scope of this article, only some of the findings will be discussed: classical and non-classical performers will be compared in relation to the emotions they reported in the three settings, and the statements they chose to explain or describe their last highly enjoyable performance.


Recruitment was made by convenience sampling and snowballing: a link to the online survey was sent to performers I had met through my professional activities as a performer and music teacher, and to music institutions and professional unions, who were subsequently asked to send it to their acquaintances. Six hundred and twenty-five performers completed the survey. Identical responses from the same ID host were eliminated. A roughly even number of men (51%; N = 318) and women (49%; N = 306) participated, coming from 36 countries. Countries with greater involvement in my professional activities were more highly rep- resented. Distribution of performers’ country of residence in descending order was—Spain (32.7%); United Kingdom (22.3%), France (12.3%), Argentina (7.4%), Brazil, (5%), and 31 other countries (20.4%). The distribution of performers’ instruments in descending order was—piano (25%), guitar (12.2%), voice (10.1%), flute (9.1%), violin (6.1%), percussion (4.5%), clarinet (4%), and 36 other instruments (29%).

The performers’ ages ranged from 11 to 72 years (M = 33; SD = 12.4). Accordingly, they differed greatly in terms of musical experience—between 2 and 64 years (M = 20.5; SD = 11. 8)—and in the range of number of performances given per year (M 􏰀 23.5; SD 􏰀 31.8). Almost half of the performers self- identified as professionals, making a living mainly from music (46%; N = 289), while students and amateurs were equally distributed at about 27%. Forty-two point six per cent of performers (N = 266) played mainly in ensembles, 30% (N = 186) as soloists and 26.4% (N = 165) in large groups. Performers’ genres were very unevenly distributed, with the majority of participants coming from the classical genre (71.2%). The other genres represented were jazz (9.1%), pop (9%), folk (7.3%), and rock and metal (2%). This bias is likely owing to my own classical background and the convenience sampling method used. As the group of classical performers was larger than the sum of all the other groups, and I was primarily interested in classical performers, all non-classical performers were grouped as “non-classical” for analysis purposes.


Performers’ Emotional Experiences During Performance, Practice, and Daily Life

The study investigated the frequency with which classical and non-classical performers reported to feel elated, joyful, positively aroused, confident, unmotivated, worried, and fearful in three different settings: daily life, practice, and performance. It addition- ally explored how the two groups differed in the choice of statements they made to describe or explain their last “highly enjoyable” performance. The performers’ choice was supposed to represent their characteristic way of thinking about performance— what I refer to as “approach to performance.” The study investigated the relationship between the emotions reported, approaches to performance, and musical genre.

To investigate whether the emotions classical and non-classical performers reported were significantly different, a Mann–Whitney U test was run (this is a nonparametric test to compare responses from two independent samples). The test showed that the two groups differed significantly in the emotions they reported during performance: classical performers reported significantly less elation, joy, positive arousal, and confidence, and significantly more worry and fear, than non-classical performers (see Table 1). In addition, classical performers reported significantly more worry than non-classical performers during practice (Mean Rank 306 for classical and 269 for non-classical performers, U(611) = 28,371, z = -4.779, p < .001).

Table 1. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

While the Mann–Whitney U test compares the means of the two groups, it is not fit to show whether or not there are different patterns in the way individuals experience the three settings. Hence, to uncover these patterns, a Categorical Principal Component Analysis (CATPCA) was conducted on the 21 emotions the performers reported in the three settings (seven emotions in each setting: performance, practice, and daily life). CATPCA is used when wanting to identify the underlying components of a set of categorical variables while maximizing the amount of variance accounted for in those items. Three dimensions were retained, which were interpreted as being three different “emotional pro- files”; only the dimensions with a consistency coefficient (Cronbach’s α) higher than .60 were retained (viewed as acceptable in the case of exploratory research, Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998). The Cronbach’s α for the three dimensions was high (.933). The first dimension accounted for 18.28% of the variance, the second for 13% and the third for 11.28%, representing a total variance of 44.43%.

Table 2 shows that Emotional profile 1 (EP1, Always great) is characterized by high levels of positive affect and low levels of negative affect in all the contexts. These performers may have a basic tendency toward positive emotions (McCrae et al., 2000); nonetheless positive emotions tend to be higher in practice than in the two other contexts. Emotional profile 2 (EP2, Fear in performance) shows negative emotions in performance (in fact, emotions are similar to those reported in MPA). How- ever, this profile seems to experience lower levels of negative emotions and higher levels of positive emotions during practice as compared with daily life. Emotional profile 3 (EP3, Only great in performance) portrays high levels of worry, fear, lack of motivation, and lack of confidence, together with an absence of positive emotions, in daily life; a slight decrease in negative emotions and a stronger increase in positive emotions in practice, with a drastic change of emotions in the performance context: high levels of all the positive emotions and an absence of all negative emotions.

Table 2. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

The Emotional Profile of Classical and Non-classical Performers

A Mann–Whitney U test was conducted to compare classical and non-classical performers’ scores in the three dimensions identified (I ran a nonparametric test because my variables were not normally distributed).

Table 3 shows that classical performers scored significantly lower than non-classical performers in EP1 and EP3, and significantly higher in EP2.

Performers’ Approaches to Performance

The differences in emotional experiences reported by classical and non-classical performers were possibly mediated by a different way of thinking about performance. To infer the performers’ approaches to performance, the performers were asked to bring to mind their last highly enjoyable performance experience and choose from a pre-established list of statements those that corresponded the best to their experience (participants were free to select or not select each statement). The list consisted of 23 statements that explained or described the experience according to different criteria. The main goal was to explore whether performers evaluated the experience mainly in terms of connection with other people, transcendence, or achievement.

Table 3. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

As my goal was exploratory, I decided I would conduct a PCA, despite the fact that all the variables were dichotomous (Jolliffe, 2002). The PCA was run on the 23 statements to identify underlying patterns that would correspond to charac- teristic approaches to performance. An orthogonal rotation (va- rimax) was applied. The Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin (KMO) measure verified the sampling adequacy for the analysis: KMO = .747, which is good according to Field (Field, 2009), and all KMO for individual items were above .77, which is above the acceptable limit of .5. Bartlett’s test of sphericity, χ² (253) = 1745.775, p < .001, indicated that correlations between items were sufficiently large for PCA.

An initial analysis was run to obtain eigenvalues for each component in the data. Eight components had eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of 1, and in combination explained 54.80% of the variance. However, the scree plot was slightly ambiguous, and showed inflections that would justify retaining two or five components. Given Kaiser’s criterion, I opted to retain five components in the final analysis.

Table 4 shows how the performers’ statements load on the five components. Each component highlights different aspects of the performance experience, and expresses a different orientation

Table 4. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

The first component was labelled “people-oriented,” as the performance appeared to be evaluated in terms of connected- ness with others. Component two seemed to view the music as originating beyond the performer’s conscious-self, and was labelled “source-oriented.” The third component, “self-oriented,” expressed a self-centred approach in which positive emotions were attributed to the performers’ own achievement. Component four, “fitness-focused,” cantered on the perception of physical and emotional fitness, and viewed the quality of the experience as dependent on how “fit” the performers happen to be at the moment of performing. The fifth component, “magical-moment,” focused on the “magical” quality of the experience—the cause of the experience was not explained, but was viewed as something that “just happens.”

How Classical and Non-classical Performers Differed in Terms of Cognitions

To investigate whether or not these approaches to performance differed between classical and non-classical performers, a Mann– Whitney U test was run (see Table 5).

Table 5. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

The Relationship Between Emotion and Cognition

The three emotional profiles were expected to appraise their practice and performance according to different criteria. Therefore, it was hypothesized that a correlation would exist between approaches and emotional profiles (the emotional patterns inferred from the emotions performers reported in performance, practice, and daily life). To test this hypothesis, a Spearman Correlation was run between the three emotional profiles and the five approaches to performance (see Table 6).

Table 6. Comparison of Mean Ranks of the performance-related emotions reported by classical and non-classical performers

Table 6 shows that EP1 and EP3 (the two emotional profiles that highly enjoy performing) are similar, in that they are both people- and source-oriented. However, they differ in self-orientation and the experience of performance as a magical moment. While EP1 is positively associated with self-orientation, EP3 has a negative association with it. Instead, EP3 seems to value performance in particular as a potential moment for heightened experience.

Emotional Profiles and Approaches to Performance

This study compared classical and non-classical performers in terms of the frequency with which they reported to feel a list of emotions in three different contexts: performance, practice, and daily life. The two groups differed significantly in terms of their emotional profiles, that is, the emotional patterns that emerged when the emotions reported in the three contexts were analysed through CATPCA. As expected, the groups also differed significantly in their approaches to performance. Approaches to performance were inferred, through PCA, on all the statements the performers chose to explain or describe their last highly enjoyable performance experience. The approaches expressed different ways of thinking about performance, which included different beliefs and concerns (i.e., values and goals).

The findings suggest that emotions are mediated by the way a performer approaches performance, and that this approach is in part shaped by the musical genre environment the performer belongs to. Moreover, there is evidence that certain types of approaches to performance promote more positive performance- related emotions than others. For instance, the two emotional profiles that highly enjoyed performing, EP1 and EP3, both viewed performance as a way to connect with others and the larger world (as shown by the significant and positive correlations found between those profiles and the people- and source-oriented approaches). In line with appraisal theories, the positive emotions they reported experiencing during performances seemed to result from the way they think about performance.

Approaching performance as an opportunity for connectedness and self-transcendence seemed to help performers feel confident, motivated, and highly joyful when performing. Caring for the audience and striving to connect with it may satisfy a fundamental psychological need and promote positive emotions (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Emmons, 2003). Remarkably, this attitude appeared to relieve some performers (EP3) of the feelings of anxiety they seemed to frequently experience in their daily life (see Cohen & Wills, 1985; Lamont, 2012; Park & Folkman, 1997). Notable also is the fact that the highly enjoyable performance experiences of performers prone to positive emotions (EP1), were also mediated by the people- and the source-oriented approaches.

Notwithstanding, EP1 performers additionally had a self- oriented approach. Their simultaneous self-oriented and self- transcendent goals seem to express a particularly balanced and healthy approach to performance similar to Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia. A eudaimonic orientation to life implies developing and using skills and talents in the service of a greater cause, and is linked to life satisfaction (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005; Ryff & Singer, 2006). Hence, a eudaimonic orientation to performance, expressed by simultaneous self-oriented and self- transcendent approaches, may also increase performance satisfaction. According to self-determination theory, this balanced approach promotes the best emotional experiences, as it simultaneously responds to the needs for competence and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2000, 2008; Emmons, 2003).

But what were the performance-related cognitions, or approaches to performance, of performers who scored high in Fear in performance? Interestingly, this profile correlated negatively with the people- and self-oriented approaches, and only correlated positively with the fitness-focused approach (“feeling physically fit” and “being in a good mood”), an approach that does not seem to associate performance with any particular value or goal. In contrast to the subjects studied by Guevara, these performers seemed to have neither a “mission” to accomplish through their performances nor a reason that moved them onto the stage. They did not play for an audience but in front of an audience (Guevara, 2007).

When the performers’ emotional profiles and their associated approaches to performance were investigated in relation to their musical genre, it appeared that classical and non-classical perform- ers differed significantly in the three emotional profiles and in two of the approaches to performance: classical performers were significantly more self-oriented and less people-oriented than non- classical performers. This suggests that the classical and the non- classical environments have different implicit approaches to performance that are communicated to their members through the values and goals they highlight.

For instance, the higher prevalence of EP2 among classical performers suggests that this environment promotes an approach to performance that leaves little space for connectedness concerns. This approach seems to foster positive emotions during practice, but not to nourish the love of performing for an audience. Killick described the rewarding experience of individuals who spend a considerable amount of time making music on their own without the need of, or interest in, performing for others. These performers (who he calls “holicipators”) make music “just for themselves.” Based on an extensive review of scientific and non-scientific literature, Killick suggests that holicipation is one of the least dis- cussed and most widespread forms of musical activities, and argues that “certain kinds of social and cultural environment promote holicipation more than others” (Killick, 2006, p. 291). He states that holicipation may be particularly prevalent within the classical music tradition.

Is the classical music tradition fostering holicipation and, as a consequence, producing performers who enjoy practicing but are not really willing to perform? Are performers who score high in EP2 “holicipators”?

When performance experiences were explored in isolation from the experience of practice, EP2 appeared to show the characteristic emotions of MPA (high levels of anxiety and absence of positive emotions during performances). Their performance experiences possibly resulted from the interplay of factors that researchers have previously identified as promoting MPA. However, when considering their negative performance-related emotions in the context of the positive experiences reported during practice, the absence of valuable goals in their approaches to performance, and the higher incidence of this profile among classical performers, it can be concluded that the concerns highlighted by the classical music milieu may be so focused on the means to achieve musical excellence, namely practice, that the joys of sharing and reaching out to others that performance may afford are overshadowed and become irrelevant. In this case, anxiety could possibly result from feeling compelled to do something that they have not developed the will to do, namely to perform for others.


The findings of this study suggest that the classical and non- classical environments promote different approaches to performance that emphasize different values and goals, and result in different qualities of performance experiences. MPA should there- fore not be viewed as an exclusively individual problem, but rather as a problem that is partly determined by the concerns that a group emphasizes.

The study has implications for researchers, as it points to the benefits of studying performance experiences in a broader context. When performance experiences are explored in the context of the performers’ cultural groups, cultural biases can be identified. When investigated in the context of the performer’s emotions in other settings, performances can be understood in relation to these other activities and emotional patterns become visible.

The findings should be interpreted in light of the limitations of this study. A survey is not the best tool to investigate the richness of the performers’ cognitions, as performers responding to this survey had to choose statements from a pre-established list and only a limited number of approaches to performance were explored; it was, however, the only tool available for investigating the emotional experiences of such a large population of performers. Consequently, I suggest that further research should explore how performers make sense of the whole process of their music making through in-depth interviews, focusing particularly on studying performers who highly enjoy both practice and performance. Such studies would allow researchers to better understand the approaches identified in this study, and possibly identify other approaches that may facilitate best holistic music-making experiences.

Moreover, while in this article I emphasize the impact of cognition on emotion, it is important to keep in mind that cognition and emotion interact reciprocally (see Boden & Berenbaum, 2010; Damasio, 1999, 2003; Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002; LeDoux, 1996). For instance, positive emotions may result from a personal propensity to experience positive emotions, or may be directly “caught” from the environment through “emotional contagion” (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993), and these positive emotions may facilitate approaches to performance that will increase the likelihood of experiencing positive emotions during consecutive music-making experiences (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002). Therefore, the correlations between emotion and approaches to performance should be interpreted within this larger paradigm. In any case, whether emotions precede cognitions or vice versa, it is noticeable that individuals are never impervious to the influence of others and that, in one way or another, their emotions are shaped by the groups they belong to.

The study suggests that approaches to performance that include a concern for connectedness with others or the larger world promote more rewarding performance experiences than approaches that focus only on personal achievement. This is in line with previous studies that suggested that the best performance experiences include a clear intention to communicate with the audience (Guevara, 2007; Minassian, Gayford, & Sloboda, 2003). Thinking about performances as a way to connect with others or the larger world appears to help even those performers who show a tendency toward experiencing negative emotions (McCrae et al., 2000) to thoroughly enjoy their performances. While further research is necessary on this topic, these findings have implications for interventions as well as for education, as they show that the way performers think about performance is partly culturally determined. Consequently, the approaches to performance embedded in the “hidden curriculum” (see Martin, 1976) of music institutions and other musical environments are partly responsible for the quality of the performers’ music-making experiences.

Every group seems to have particular approaches to performance, which become chronically accessible (Bargh et al., 1988), foster congruous systematic appraisal biases (Scherer & Brosch, 2009), and impact on group members’ collective emotional orientation (Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2006). Accordingly, it appears that cultural influences as well as corresponding conceptualisations of performance should be included in existing models of MPA, and should be taken into account when investigating other music performance related emotional experiences.


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Received May 17, 2013 Revision received December 18, 2013
Accepted January 11, 2014