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Drink and drugs blight classical musicians' lives, says ex-cellist

August 19, 2014

Press Association

Addiction is blighting the lives of many classical musicians as they grapple with performance anxiety and antisocial hours, a cellist has said.

Rachael Lander features in a Channel 4 documentary to be screened next week that brings together classical musicians whose careers have been derailed by drug and drink problems.

The cellist, who was addicted to alcohol and prescription pills, said the problem was rife in the classical music world.

Lander, who began drinking to self-medicate her concert hall panics, told Radio Times: "Addiction problems are widespread among classical musicians.

"There is the lifestyle, the odd hours, working weekends, post-concert socialising. Many players use alcohol and beta-blockers to control performance anxiety and then, after the 'high' of a performance, can struggle to 'come down' and therefore drink to relax - which becomes habitual."

Lander left her profession to become a waitress as she battled with her addictions.

"I remember being in the National Youth Orchestra as a teenager, and we were doing the BBC Proms. I had this overpowering feeling of not being able to move in the way I wanted to - I felt trapped. I couldn't cope with the adrenaline, and I felt myself tipping into panic attacks," she told the magazine.

"When I drank, these attacks stopped. I also took Valium and beta-blockers. So you could block the adrenal gland and still hang on to your mental capacity."

The documentary, Addicts' Symphony, shows the musicians performing with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Composer James McConnel was inspired to lead the project after the death of his son, Freddy, who was an associate of Peaches Geldof and 18 when he took a fatal heroin overdose in 2011. He had been identified as a gifted child, was a member of Mensa. McConnel said it was "one of those rare programmes which is not only entertaining and informative, but which has done some real, long-term good". He added: "Watching a group of people brave enough to address their addictions and fear through music was inspirational."

Addicts' Symphony is on Channel 4

on 27 August

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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