Liliana Araújo joins Schulich Faculty

Academic, researcher, and consultant specialized in performance psychology and performance science, Liliana Araújo brings her knowledge and expertise to the School

Dr. Liliana S. Araújo joins the Schulich School of Music in the inaugural position of Assistant Professor in Performance Science, held jointly between the Department of Music Research and the Department of Performance.  

Prof. Araújo is a world-class researcher and experienced pedagogue in performance psychology in higher education, most recently at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. Her research is focused on psychology applications to performance domains, and she is sure to be a vital part of the McGill Performance Science Initiative. The Initiative aims to capture, understand, and inspire ways of thinking about performance, with direct implications for the arts, education, science, and wider society. McGill’s research, teaching, and interdisciplinary knowledge exchange are clustered around grand challenges in performance, including Performance Education, Performance Health and Wellbeing; and Performance Systems. 

Prof. Araújo is well published in leading journals and is a prolific contributor at international conferences and workshops. Her current consultancy with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Musicians’ Performance and Wellbeing programme is particularly relevant for the applied performance science position at Schulich — and we’re excited to welcome her to the School. 

We connected with Prof. Araújo over email to discover what she’s looking forward to in her new role, how she manages obstacles or uncertainties, and what might be queued up on her playlist! 

What are you most looking forward to in your new position at the Schulich School of Music?  
I am thrilled and honoured to be joining McGill University as a faculty member of the Schulich School of Music! I am really honoured to start this inaugural position in Applied Performance Science and to have the opportunity to bring my multidisciplinary profile and international networks to contribute to new developments in this new area. I am excited to join a community that is forward-thinking, brave, and innovative, and that values the role of performance science in supporting and enhancing music practices in education and the profession. And joining a school that places wellness at the core of their strategic plan is a dream! I totally align with the school’s values and commitment to interdisciplinarity, diversity, collaboration, innovation, and creative freedom, and for that reason, I’m very much looking forward to being part of this community. In my role, I am mostly looking forward to work collaboratively with students and colleagues, to develop new partnerships and exchanges, and I hope our work can inspire individuals and organizations to enable transformative and positive change in music education and the industry.   

Is there a moment that led you on the path to where you are now — one that changed your course or confirmed it? 
There were several moments in my life that brought me where I am now, and I think it is all about being open to what can happen at moments of uncertainty, being brave and following our dreams. I studied Psychology but I always had an interest for the arts, and wanted to combine those two areas, but not through the lens of arts-therapy. I was also interested in topics related to talent and excellence and it was during my PhD that I fully immersed myself in the field of sports, education, and performance psychology applied to other ‘elite performers’ (dancers, musicians, and scientists). Early in my PhD, I had a poster accepted to present at the first International Symposium on Performance Science that took place in 2007 in Portugal (my home country), and I think that was one of those key moments. It was when I met Aaron Williamon, one of the pioneers in this field, and many other researchers. I would never guess at that time I would be part of that network several years later!   

What are some elements that are important to your teaching philosophy?  
I always start by asking students ‘why are you here? what brought you here? what do you want to take from this course?’ and I invite them to take something that resonates with them and that they can use to develop their personal and/or professional aspirations.  

I see teaching as an opportunity to stimulate curiosity and self-discovery in learning, where everyone has space to voice their ideas, to raise questions, to provoke and be provoked as a way to co-construct knowledge and skills. I believe that significant learning happens when we find personal meaning or value in what we are learning, even if that means that at a particular moment in time, what I am learning may not be what I need. Being able to reflect on experience, to articulate and justify an argument, and think independently and critically are some of the key skills and values I hope my students will develop. And I use performance psychology as the platform that facilitates that independence of thinking by offering a fascinating perspective of how complex we are as human beings, in our behavioural, emotional, cognitive, and social ways of functioning.   

If faced with obstacles or uncertainty, how do you keep moving forward?  
I try to remind myself of the big picture. Where do I want to go or what do I want to achieve? Obstacles and uncertainty will always be part of the road, so keeping a clear vision and being open and flexible to take new directions is how I keep moving forward.   

What is exciting to you about your field right now? 
I think these are exciting times in the field of performance science and I believe there will be great developments that will create transformative impact in performing arts education and the wider sector. I feel there is more awareness and openness to learn more about performance science and to welcome it in real-life settings to inform and enhance practice and performance, but there is also a need to do more in terms of translating the exceptional and vast international research that already exists into real-life applications and sustainable practices. For example, we know so much about music performance anxiety, but we could do so much more in educational and professional settings to develop practices that prevent anxiety or better equip musicians to manage it! Something that it would be exciting to see more is to have more orchestras or other music organizations leading initiatives that involve collaboration between academics, musicians, and other professionals to change and challenge practices towards more sustainable and healthier applications.    

What should students leave Schulich knowing?  
The world is a complex place and leaving school to join the job market can feel overwhelming and unsettling! I would like students to leave School knowing that transitions are part of their journey, the road towards their goals is indeed rocky, but it is an exciting journey! I am very aware that such transition can feel difficult and confusing, but I also know that musicians are excellent and creative problem-solvers, determined, and resilient! I always encourage my students to remind themselves of the bigger picture, of their goals and motivations (that can also change throughout time), and to celebrate their accomplishments. Being proud of their journey, being curious and brave about the future, and fuelling their life with things that they enjoy are great ways to feel empowered to construct an exciting future!  

We would love to know what book you would suggest we all go and check out right now to find out more about performance psychology!  
There is a book that I totally recommend to any musician that wants to apply performance psychology to their practice and life! It was recently published (2020) and it is entitled Achieving Peak Performance in Music: Psychological Strategies for Optimal Flow by Sarah Sinnamon.  

What is something someone might be surprised to find on your playlist? 
My playlist is quite eclectic… from Etta James, Portuguese fado to Brazilian Sertanejo!  


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