Looking Back on Befriending Anxiety 2022

Looking Back on Befriending Anxiety 2022
In November 2022, Music Network launched the new learning and participation initiative Befriending Anxiety, delivered by concert pianist and wellbeing expert Dr Xenia Pestova Bennett.

Befriending Anxiety, supported by ESB Energy for Generations Fund, was rolled out in 8 secondary schools across 4 counties in partnership with Donegal Music Education Partnership and Music Generation Kildare, Carlow and Cavan/Monaghan. The project helped students from a variety of backgrounds to use movement, breathwork and a deep listening technique to overcome anxiety through music.









"After Covid and the gap in being able to perform music together, the students are experiencing anxiety. The Befriending Anxiety programme has given them coping mechanisms to overcome this as we start to get back to live performance." Geraldine Gilsenan, Teacher, St Wolstan’s Community School

In each participating school, a first year group and a 5th/6th year music class engaged with the two-strand programme. Each group received a bespoke introductory video workshop which laid the foundation of the programme, followed by two in-person visits from Xenia. For first year students, Befriending Anxiety combined practical breathing exercises with music and movement, exploring ways to improve wellbeing and state-of-mind. The workshops included music-driven guided meditation and aimed to instil coping mechanisms to help students manage stress and improve focus. For older students, the programme was tailored specifically towards music performance, helping them build a toolkit to manage performance anxiety. These interactive sessions included collaborative discussion on performance anxiety and workshopping of techniques to maintain focus during performances. A further aim was to engender a sense of pride and fulfilment around musical performance and encourage students to continue playing and performing music far into the future.

Planning is currently underway for a 2023 instalment of Befriending Anxiety.

"I really liked the music, and it also made me very aware of my surroundings." Megan, 1st year participant, St Wolstan’s Community School
"I learned a lot of new tips which I will use in the future." 6th year participant, Maynooth Community College
"I am really excited to be working with young people and collaborating on this wonderful project with Music Network. My own journey with performance anxiety started in my early teens. At that time, stage fright and anxiety in general were not really topics that anyone discussed openly. Things are finally changing today, and there is already a lot more openness and honesty around the topic of anxiety. I hope that these positive developments continue and that students and teachers can find more ways to “befriend” these very natural sensations, thoughts and feelings that we all experience to find more confidence and joy in sharing music as well as other situations that life might throw at us." Xenia Pestova Bennett, Facilitator
"Xenia was very kind and I learned new ways to relax. It was a lot of fun." 1st year participant, Maynooth Community College
"It’s really cool and fascinating." Paris, 1st year participant, St Wolstan’s Community School

To find out more about Xenia Pestova Bennett’s projects, or to order a copy of her book Befriending Performance Anxiety: Practical Tips for Performers of All Levels , please visit https://xeniapestovabennett.com

Befriending Anxiety is presented by Music Network. Music Network is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. This project is funded by ESB Energy for Generations Fund.

If your school, club or organisation is interested in upcoming learning and participation opportunities, please contact Sarah at programmesadmin@musicnetwork.ie