A recent Channel 4 documentary, Addicts’ Symphony has highlighted the surprising effect that alcohol and drugs has been having amongst orchestral players. Typically associated with a more rock and roll genre, many have been surprised to hear that a combination of performance anxiety and antisocial hours has resulted in many classical musicians turning to these substances to try and cope with their demanding lifestyles.
Rachael Lander, a former cellist first began drinking in a bid to self-medicate her concert hall panic attacks. In the documentary, she explains how when she drank, the attacks stopped. As well as alcohol, Lander also found herself becoming addicted to Valium and beta-blockers and eventually left the profession to become a waitress in order to overcome her problems.
The former musician confirmed:
“Addiction problems are widespread among classical musicians for many reasons. There is the lifestyle, the odd hours, working weekends, post-concert socialising. Many players use alcohol and beta-blockers to control their performance anxiety and then, after the ‘high’ of a performance, musicians can struggle to ‘come down’ and therefore drink to relax - which becomes habitual.”
The documentary, which will be aired on the 27th August was initiated by composer, James McConnel after the tragic death of his own son who was just 18. McConnel’s son was an exceptionally bright individual who was a member of Mensa and had competed on BBC’s Junior Mastermind. Sadly however, he passed away after a fatal heroin overdose in 2011. McConnel hopes that as well as being entertaining and informative that the documentary will help do some good as other sufferers address their addictions.
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