Hi, I’m Emese Hruska, and I am a music psychologist, musician and Assistant Professor at the Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary. I have an MA in Journalism, and I studied classical and Hungarian folk violin. I earned my PhD at the University of Roehampton in London (United Kingdom), specializing in classical musicians’ perfectionism, performance anxiety and the potential causes of the occurrence of these issues.

Personal motivation to research musicians’ perfectionism

The reason I turned to music psychology is quite personal. Despite I had an extensive performing experience across Europe by accompanying Hungarian traditional folk dance groups, I knew that I could not live up to my musical potential. In my case it was not about stage fright. Instead, the root of my problem originated in how I viewed myself as a music student. In other words, the way I defined myself as a person and a musician, held me back in developing as a performer. By studying music psychology, later I realized that I was a perfectionist.

Remarkable results in my PhD study

In my doctorate I found that musicians’ self-concept (the way they see themselves) plays a crucial role in their musical practice , including the way they relate to performing. For instance, the research highlighted that negative self-concept and unhealthy perfectionism can significantly contribute to musicians experiencing higher levels of performance anxiety.

Theory shows up in practice

I had the opportunity to observe this tendency in my teaching practice too. I noticed that music students’ self-evaluation highly influenced their musical learning and performing ability as well. >> During my London years, I worked as a violin tutor for Lambeth Music Service which provides accessible music tuition for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of my students were musically talented but they lacked confidence to trust themselves and they were also perfectionists as they became easily frustrated when they couldn’t play up to the standard they had wished.  But it happened that after I had helped them to develop an accepting self-view, their confidence levels increased instantly and they stopped being so sensitive to making mistakes. Another positive outcome of this change was that they were more able to concentrate which improved their learning, and this in turn made them able to play and perform at a higher level.

Why starting PerfActionist?

Having such experiences myself, I thought that it may be worth to start a dialogue with teachers, musicians and music students to share knowledge and experiences from daily practice. Disseminating research findings is also important, and for this reason I presented my research at numerous international conferences during my PhD candidature. Since that time, I also regularly give public lectures and workshops, and write articles for the wider community. One of my talks which was broadcast by the Hungarian national television is available below with English subtitles:

I hope that PerfActionist will be a platform where musicians and non-musicians interested in perfectionism and performance psychology will share their experiences and many questions will be raised and resolved by finding the healthy form of perfectionism which helps individuals to achieve their best in performing and in life as well.