Health Promotions in Schools of Music

2004 Conference | Sponsors | University of North Texas | Performing Arts Medical Association

Music Education Liaison

Hearing Health

Vocal Health
PreConference Report 1
Preconference Report 2
Postconference Report


Mental Health
Teacher Stresses



Teacher Burnout and Stress

Bernhard submitted the following literature synopsis:
Mental health care professionals attest to the fact that a college music student facesanxiety and stress, depression, substance abuse, relationship management, and career uncertainties (e.g., Jacobs & Dodd, 2003; Kitzrow, 2003).  A substantial body of research supports a syndrome of mental and physical “burnout” among members of the teaching profession (e.g., Byrne, 1999; Zabel & Zabel, 2001), including teachers of music (e.g., Scheib, 2004).
According to Vandenberghe and Huberman (1999), burnout is “a crisis of overworked and disillusioned human service workers” (p. 1). This syndrome has been categorized into three distinct and measurable components; emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach & Jackson, 1996), and may be exacerbated by classroom challenges including student behavior problems and lack of teaching experience (Byrne, 1999). Burnout may also be compounded by personal characteristics such as self-esteem (Byrne, 1999), personality, peer support (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003), and changes in patterns of sleep or diet (Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999).  Music education research regarding burnout suggests that music teachers may face unique problems including large class sizes, scheduling challenges, lack of administrative support, itinerant teaching assignments and extra-curricular responsibilities (Gordon, 2000; Heston, Dedrick, Raschke, & Whitehead, 1996; Krueger, 2000; Scheib, 2003; 2004).

When considering the combined sources of stress associated with general college life and teacher burnout, students who prepare to teach music may experience unique needs. For example, Hamann and Daugherty (1985) found that college music students reported concern for issues including lack of personal goals, overload of academic classes, and lack of direct experience with projected professional roles.
In a national survey of teacher education institutions, Kapel, Gerber, and Reiff (1988) found that most state accrediting agencies did not require evidence of mental fitness for future teachers. While further research is needed to clarify the unique mental health needs of music education majors, established measures such as The Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach, Jackson, & Schwab, 1996) and College Student Survey (Gold, Bachelor, & Michael, 1989) may be useful in assessing initial levels of burnout among our students.
Prevention and treatment of burnout have received less empirical study than causes and predictors, but evidence exists that mind and body relaxation exercises (Deckro, et al., 2002) as well as guided imagery and tai chi chuan (Cai, 2000) may be helpful in reducing and controlling stress among college students. Lyman and Benedik (1999) suggested that campus-sponsored health fairs should be used to offer free screenings and to promote mind and body awareness. In conjunction with additional research, this information may enable teacher educators and school music administrators to offer appropriate assistance for alleviating current burnout and preventing future burnout among music education majors.


1.  A review of research literature should be conducted to identify issues related to the mental health needs of university music majors. The review should include general student concerns (e.g., anxiety, stress, depression, substance abuse, relationships, and personal independence), unique music major concerns (e.g., performance anxiety, teacher burnout, career options, teacher-student tensions, conductor-ensemble member tensions, conflicts between individual needs and ensemble personnel needs) and any possible interactions.
2. Printed literature related to mental health and music should be created and distributed to K-12 and higher education music programs.
3. Partnerships should be established among music programs, school counseling centers, and off-campus health institutions to work cooperatively on issues related to mental health and music.
4. Music Education majors should receive instruction for identifying and addressing students'
mental health needs and potential risks of teacher burnout.  Teacher education units should objectively assess and evaluate mental fitness of pre-service teaching candidates.
5.  Music majors should receive instruction regarding potential risks of performance anxiety, as well as coping strategies.
 6.  Music majors should receive instruction regarding academic complexities and challenges that are unique to the program (e.g., “ghost credits” for many course requirements and extra-curricular performance expectations), as well as strategies for coping with these challenges.
7. All university students should receive instruction regarding methods for establishing and maintaining mental health. Topics should include organizational, interpersonal, intra-personal, and study skills, as well as sound practices for sleep, diet, and exercise.

8. Further research is needed to identify and/or develop valid and reliable measures of mental health for musicians
(e.g., Maslach Burnout Inventory). Research is also needed to enhance current knowledge regarding variables related to or causing mental health problems in music performance, teaching, and learning.