Volume 4, Article 4

Volume 4, Article 4

The Conservatoire Coach’s Casebook Notes: a thematic analysis
Jo Hensel, Stephen Palmer and Karen Wise

Citation: Hensel, J., Palmer, S., & Wise, K. (2023). The Conservatoire Coach’s Casebook Notes: a thematic analysis. International Journal of Coaching Psychology, 4, 4, 1-13. https://ijcp.nationalwellbeingservice.com/volumes/volume-4-2023/volume-4-article-4/

Processing dates: Submitted: 14 March 2021; Resubmitted: 12 December 2022; Accepted: 10 January 2023; Published: 26 April 2023

Volume 4 Article 4


Background / Aims / Objectives: Although coaching has been shown to promote positive change and growth in higher education in general, there is very little evidence of its use in specialist higher music education where there is a call for increased support for positive psychological functioning. The purpose of this paper is to present an account of the challenges facing music students in a leading UK conservatoire, describing the issues that came up in the course of 1:1 solution-focused coaching sessions with the researcher.

Methods / Methodology: This qualitative study adopts a social constructionist approach. An Inductive Thematic Analysis method was used to generate themes from the data set of 74 sets of coaching notes from sessions with 26 coachees.

Results: The results showed the students to be highly demanding of themselves, both as performers and learners – finding particular challenge in practice, managing the wide variety of tasks they set for themselves and in contemplating their future in music. The challenges were mitigated to some extent, by the coachees’ resourcefulness, vision and sense of purpose and support they received from others.

Discussion: The findings of this study resonate with the existing literature on the challenges faced by students in higher education, adding depth to the understanding of the particular challenges faced by conservatoire music students.

Conclusion: The level of demanding beliefs found in this study would suggest that a rational emotive behavioural coaching intervention may equip conservatoire students with the psychological skills required to deal more effectively with these challenges as they arise.

Keywords: Coaching Psychology, Conservatoire, Thematic analysis, Demand, Practice, Rational Emotive Behaviour Coaching


Jo Hensel* was appointed as Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s first Performance Confidence Associate in 2021, having held the position of Deputy Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion
since 2011. An accredited Master Practitioner with the EMCC, Jo is also a Coaching Associate at Guildhall where she is currently undertaking a PhD, focusing on the potential of coaching to
positively impact the wellbeing and performance confidence of conservatoire music students. Alongside her coaching and research activities, Jo is a professional horn player – touring,
performing and recording with some of the UK’s and Europe’s leading orchestras and chamber ensembles including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, of which she has been a member since 1998. *corresponding author
Address: Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DT, UK
Email: jo.hensel@gsmd.ac.uk

Prof. Stephen Palmer PhD is Professor of Practice at the Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Adjunct Professor of Coaching Psychology at Aalborg University. He is Director of the Centre for Coaching, London, and the National Academy of Coaching Psychology. He is the Honorary President and a Fellow
of the International Society for Coaching Psychology (ISCP). His professional qualifications include being a Chartered Coaching Psychologist and ISCP Accredited. He has written or edited 60
books and has published over 300 articles and chapters.

Dr Karen Wise is Research Fellow and Lecturer in Psychology at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and is a founder member of the Institute for Social Impact Research in the Performing Arts.Her research interests include musical creativity, performance and in particular, adult musical development, identity and learning, from novices and the self-proclaimed ‘non-musical’ to professionals. She has published on the psychology of singing and self-defined ‘tone deafness’, and recently was Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘Finding a Voice: The art and science of unlocking the potential of adult nonsingers’. Karen was Research Associate in the Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice, University of Cambridge, and has held psychology teaching posts at the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Keele. She is also a classical mezzo soprano and singing teacher.