null Hans Alting: Musicians also need mental coaching

Royal Concertgebouw's trumpetist Hans Alting is an established musician. Through his own experience he has more and more become aware of the various aspects that affect musicianship and a musician's wellbeing.  

Hans Alting joined the trumpet section of the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra in 1984. During the years he – as his many colleagues and, well, almost every musician – have frequently asked the question: Am I good enough.

- As a musician I started feeling stressed and I was constantly unsatisfied in my own playing. I started to audition to myself. Eventually, I stopped playing for four months. I also saw many of my colleagues become tired and injuring themselfes, stuck in their ways in some way.

Alting started to look for help. He found a method called NLP – neuro-linguistic programming. In 2016, he become an international trainer of it and now he works not as a musician in one of the world’s foremost orchestras, also a coach for musicians that brings them tools for handling stressful situations like stage freeze and auditions.

- As I educated myself in NLP, I discovered things that I knew could also help musicians. I saw things that I missed myself when growing up as a musician. As younger, I was talented but never mentally coached.

Alting visited the Sibelius Academy early 2020 and will return to teach at the Brass at Sibelius Summer Academy course in June. His visits are a part of the International visitor programme, established in 2019. Hi will be visiting the Sibelius Academy twice a year for the next few years. This allows him to securely think about his course contents long-term – although he says some difference can already be made in a shorter visit, too.

- If I get the students to openly talk about their insecurities and fears, their tough spots, in a safe environment you can see the process even in a couple of days. With my methods I can start a process: teach them for example how to talk more positively about themselves.

Alting goes through different situations: how to enter the stage, how do you present yourself and how does that all influence others present.

We may practice for example coming into the room with different states of mind. We also go through how we perceive information about the outside world and from within ourselves – and how we react or cope with that information. With all that, I aim to give the students tools to influence their own state of mind in different circumstances, to handle their insecurities or fears in stressful situations. We are trying to get the students to play their music with less anxiety.

To a certain point, when thinking about the human nerve systems and our mental processes, a musical performance on stage could be compared to a top sport performance. The importance of physical or mental training in music has not been that present in the professional world – or even education – up until recently.

- The difference between sports and music is that every top athlete has their personal coach, their physical trainers, masseurs – and a mental coach. A high-level musician has had to deal with this mostly by him- or herself for a long time in history. Musician has to be his or her own mental coach in auditions, exams, and like an athlete, they too often have three or five minutes to do their best. An audition can be like going to the Olympics. If you are only aiming for the medal, it doesn’t work.

Alting has also brought his approach to his orchestra colleagues. The younger generation of musicians is more aware of the importance of a holistic wellbeing and already know to ask to be educated in the field, too. Still, Alting says we are even dealing with some kind of a tabu.

- There are many musicians that go on and on in their careers up to the point of injuring themselves physically or mentally, not stopping and finding out what caused it. I try to guide musicians to listen to their bodies and minds more and luckily, recently, my fellow musicians have become very interested in my approach. If you still after 8 hours of practicing still say to yourself that you are not good enough you really have to do something about it.



Hans Alting is one of the teachers in our Brass at Sibelius Summer Academy course in June 2020 and a participant in the Sibelius Academy Intenrational Visitor Programme. Read more about the course