Landmark Gift Launched Groundbreaking Musician Mental Health Program 

In Canada, hospitalizations for mental health issues among young people rose 67 per cent between 2006 and 2016, and those numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate year after year. For some time, NYO Canada has hoped to address the critical issue of artist mental health, and in 2018 we were able to do so, thanks to a visionary $150,000, three-year gift from the J & W Murphy Foundation. The gift enabled NYO Canada, during the 2018 session and tour, to launch its first comprehensive mental health and wellness program designed to help prepare NYO Canada musicians for the rigours of professional musicianship.  

The program provides comprehensive training for musicians in mastering lifelong tools and strategies for managing stress and maintaining health in a gruelling high-performance environment.   

Musicians received workshops and training for musician mental health, including performance anxiety, the mental rigors of touring, identifying symptoms of depression and anxiety, and other specialized challenges related to musician mental wellness.   

“Young people everywhere are facing increasing stress, and mental health is a vital part of self-management and success in any endeavor,” said NYO Canada Executive Director Barbara Smith. “But in the world of professional music, competition is fierce, demands are high, expectations off the chart, and the professional environment can be physically and emotionally grueling. At NYO Canada, we are not just teaching young people to play to professional standards but are committed to training the whole musician. Just like professional athletes, preparing to perform at the highest levels means not only mastering the physical and artistic rigors of professional musicianship, but the mental self-care and wellness aspects as well.”  

“Because NYO Canada is a training orchestra, people think the experience is fun and stress-free. Once accepted to the orchestra, many expect that – for a hopeful young musician wishing to pursue their dreams – the stress would be over,” said Dr. John McMillan of Musicians Clinics of Canada. “But for some students who have been gifted and high-achieving all their lives, the stress is just beginning as they face the rigours of a professional training institute under the baton of a world-renowned conductor and encounter the demands of touring for the first time.”