Addiction 'rife' among musicians

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

Rachael Lander features in a new British documentary which 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 medicate her panic attacks in the concert hall, told Radio Times magazine: "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."

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," she told the magazine.

"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.

"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 Valium was great because ... because I didn't really have to be in the room."

The documentary, Addicts' Symphony, sees the musicians perform as an ensemble, live on stage 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 the late 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 and had competed on the BBC's Junior Mastermind.

McConnel said it was "one of those rare programs which is not only entertaining and informative, but which has done some real, long-term good".

"For me, watching a group of people brave enough to address their addictions and fear - through music - was both humbling and inspirational," he said.

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