Raluca Matei is an applied health psychologist specialising in musicians’ health and wellbeing, from a broad, multidisciplinary perspective. She is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) with the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She completed her PhD, which was fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, at the Royal Northern College of Music, in the UK, in 2019. Raluca has undergraduate degrees in psychology and music, and a Master’s in Health Psychology from University College London. Having been trained as a professional classical violinist, she also studied at the prestigious Menuhin Academy (Switzerland), with Maxim Vengerov and Liviu Prunaru.
Matei specializes in musicians’ health and wellbeing from an interdisciplinary, real-world perspective. Her research thus far encompasses areas such as health education provision in higher music education (i.e. conservatoires); musicians’ physical and mental health; and musicians’ health literacy. She is currently interested in the training of critical thinking as part of the conservatoire curriculum, as well as in questioning current assumptions in Western classical music. Furthermore, she has a strong interest in the design, implementation, and evaluation of complex, real-world health interventions.
Giulia Ripani has recently earned a Ph.D. in music education at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami. In her inter-disciplinary research, she addresses the concept of identity from social psychological and philosophical perspectives. In addition, she relies on a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques, which she has learned during her bachelor’s degree in psychology and graduate studies in music education. These methodologies and techniques include structural equation modeling, principal component analysis, projective methods, phenomenology, and grounded theory.
In her social psychology studies, Ripani explores the concept of musical identities, addressing the use of music as a means to express non-musical aspects of the self. Her work has documented developmental changes in musical identities across the lifespan. Unlike much of the previous literature, she has shown that musical identities reflect different internal drives at each phase of life. Moreover, the process of identity development is inextricably linked to student well-being and academic achievement. Therefore, in her work, Ripani has also explored the effect of identity development and musical experiences on the psychological condition of immigrant students. Research findings have documented that cultural competencies (i.e., development of ethnic and national identities) and supportive music relationships with parents, peers, and teachers interact in complex ways while affecting immigrant students’ acculturative stress (i.e., stress related to immigration experiences).
Ripani has further explored the concept of identity by addressing the aspect of professional identity. Before her graduate studies in music education, she collaborated with several orchestras while serving as a teaching assistant of viola and violin classes in Italian academies. These experiences has helped her become more attentive to the condition of freelance musicians. When the pandemic brought concerts and cultural events to a standstill, she conducted a phenomenological inquiry to analyze changes in classical freelance musicians’ professional identities and mental health. Results showed that the pandemic has represented a disruptive but transformative experience for classical freelance musicians, who have started to re-think their roles by considering community collaborations and teaching activities.
In her philosophy research, Ripani is interested in examining educational aims to better understand the role of music education in student identity development. In the article “Promoting Metron,” she stresses the importance of helping students process negative experiences occasionally arising in the music classroom for a more balanced acceptance of themselves and others. She is currently working on two papers. In the first, she considers how a second reading of Humanism and its forgotten lessons on fragility, dialogue, fallibility, and utopia could enrich contemporary ways of conceiving the musical subject. Drawing on these lessons, musical selves can be understood as being continuously redefined in dialogical relationships between limits and possibilities. In the second, she explores the shortcomings of solidarity as a Western-centered value, examining the kind of solidarity that could help students form their selves in culturally diverse environments.
During her graduate studies, Ripani has successfully pursued funding opportunities to support her work as a researcher and teacher. She was awarded the University of Miami Graduate Dissertation Fellowship to complete her dissertation, titled “The effect of acculturation, social support, and music self-perceptions on Latino immigrant children’s acculturative stress in music classes: A SEM model,” under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Zdzinski. Beyond the Dissertation Fellowship, Ripani has obtained three grants to promote educational and scholarly projects. The first project stemmed from her desire to develop innovative methods for teaching strings in community ensembles. The second project aimed to question Western-centered assumptions in the music ecosystem. After receiving a grant from the Racial Justice Pilot Grant Program at the University of Miami, she co-organized a series of webinars, titled “Racial bias and equity in music.” The third project took place in the Spring 2023. Funded by the Frost School of Music, a new series of webinars expanded the focus of the previous project by taking into account how racial discrimination overlaps with interconnecting categories of class, gender, personal abilities, immigration status, and cultural background.
Ripani has presented her scholarly work at national and international conferences. Her work has been published in the Journal of Research in Music Education, Psychology of Music, Philosophy of Music Education Review, Music Educators Journal, and Update: Application of Research in Music Education.
Nabeel Zuhdi earned his Master’s in Guitar Performance and Ph.D. in Music with a concentration in Performing Arts Health from the University of North Texas. His study “Occupational Health Problems of Classical Guitarists” is the first known designed to address musculoskeletal and mental health problems associated with classical guitarists. Through his chosen related field as a master’s student, he was exposed to interdisciplinary research in musculoskeletal, psychological, hearing, and vocal health associated with performing and practicing music.
Zuhdi was inspired by his mentor’s (Kris Chesky) research, which proposed that musicians’ health issues are primarily due to occupational behaviors inherent to the music field and its conventions. Consequently, Zuhdi began to explore topics related to the occupational identity of musicians, including its influence on behavior and health, its characteristics, social dynamics, and potential impact on the music discipline. By employing theoretical orientations related to identity and other health variables, he hopes to contribute to the efforts made to influence the discipline to become self-reflected, self-guided, and generative of knowledge regarding musicians’ occupational health.
As a researcher, guitar teacher, and performer, Zuhdi believes that music students at the tertiary level are at the heart of this effort. Having mentored and collaborated with several music students, Zuhdi trusts that undergraduate and graduate music students have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their academic ability through interdisciplinary projects that are practical and applicable to issues associated with performance, pedagogy, and beyond.