Interview – Noola Griffiths

Dr Noola Griffiths

Noola Griffiths completed her degree in Music at the University of Sheffield. Her dissertation investigated absolute pitch accuracy in children and adults. She completed the MA Psychology of Music in 2005, again at the University of Sheffield, and went on to undertake her PhD there under the supervision of Dr Nicola Dibben and Professor Jane Davidson. Noola’s Masters and PhD research examined the role of concert dress in performances by female classical soloists. Noola was appointed as a Research Associate to the Social Futures Institute at Teesside University in 2009 where she is furthering her research interests in the applied psychology of performance and working to develop research policy. Noola teaches the psychology of performance part-time on the Masters course at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. She is a keen flautist and piccolo player.



1)       When and how did you first find out about music psychology?

I first heard about music psychology when I was applying for undergraduate music degrees. It cropped up in a couple of prospectuses and sounded really interesting. When I arrived at University mainly what I knew about it was what I’d heard on open days and my interest grew as I took psychology of music modules during my course.

2)       What lead you to want to study music psychology?

When I started at University I was most interested in performance and I think I saw music psychology as one way to make sense of performance. It gave me a different understanding of what was happening when people performed and listened to music and I think that helped me in my own performance. Although I studied as much psychology of music as I could during my degree I felt like I’d just scratched the surface of the subject area. We’d carried out small research projects as part of academic modules and I discovered I really liked doing research as well as learning about the subject content. It was the combination of all those things that lead me to go on to further study.

3)       What did you enjoy studying the most in music psychology? Is there any area you wish you could have studied more?

The masters course that I took at Sheffield covered a little bit of everything and it was great to get that broad overview. More specifically I found anything to do with the applied psychology of performance fascinating.

4)       What are your current areas of focus and how did you come to work in these areas?

Mainly I’m continuing work looking at ways in which soloists’ appearance and movement style feature in performance. I started working in this area for my masters dissertation and developed it during my PhD. New questions keep emerging so I’m following up those at present.

5)       What is your proudest moment as a music psychologist?

Probably passing my viva; because a PhD is such a huge piece of work it felt a real achievement to finish it. It was great to see my work in print too and I was pleasantly surprised when a paper I wrote was picked up by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian as an example of good science for his ‘Bad Science’ column.

6)       Who inspires you most in the field of music psychology?

I’m really interested in applied performance psychology so the work being carried out by researchers based in conservatoires, particularly at the Centre for Performance Science at the RCM, is of real interest to me.

7)       What music do you like to listen to in your spare time?

I really love Mahler, Dvorak and Mendelssohn symphonies and it’s great to listen to orchestral music that I’ve played in the past. Other than that it’s pop that I love, early Madonna is a firm favourite or whatever Heat Radio happens to be playing!

8)   Do you have any advice for future, budding music psychologists?

Read a lot and read broadly, I’d say. I think it’s really useful to know about debates that are going on in music more widely.

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