Dr Ruth Herbert

Senior Lecturer in Music Psychology and Music Performance,
Director of Research (Music & Audio Technology),
Graduate Studies Lead (Taught)
+44 (0)1634 888476
Dr Ruth Herbert


Dr Ruth Herbert is a music psychologist and performer with diverse research interests in the fields of music in everyday life, music, health and wellbeing, music and consciousness (including ASC and Trance), sonic studies and music education. Further research interests include performance psychology, evolutionary psychology and ethology. As a professional pianist, Ruth has performed with various ensembles, notably recording soundtracks for silent films commissioned by the British Film Institute (BFI) with the piano trio Triptych, subsequently touring these works at major venues in the UK and USA (e.g. Barbican and Lincoln Centres). 

After gaining a BMus Hons and MA in performance practice from Cardiff University, Ruth won a Munster Trust scholarship to pursue postgraduate advanced solo studies at the Royal Academy of Music. In 2009 she was awarded a PhD in music psychology from the University of Sheffield. Positions held include Head of Performance Studies at Dartington College of Arts and Lecturer in Music for the Open University. Prior to her appointment at Kent, Ruth held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford and a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford. Publications include an edited volume (with Eric Clarke (University of Oxford) and David Clarke (Newcastle University) on music and consciousness (OUP, 2019), a book on the psychology of everyday listening (Ashgate, 2011), chapters in edited volumes on Music and Consciousness (OUP, 2019, 2011; University of Wales Press, 2017), modes of music listening (Rombach-Verlag, 2017), Sounding Art (Routledge, 2017), peer-reviewed articles in a range of journals in music psychology and ethnomusicology, plus encyclopaedia entries in these fields (Sage, 2014). Forthcoming publications include a new OUP edited volume (with Nicola Shaughnessy (University of Kent) and Emma Williams (University of Surrey) titled 'Beyond Autistic Stereotypes: New Perspectives on Identities, Gender and Experience

Ruth has also published extensively on aspects of music teaching and education in mainstream specialist magazines (Rhinegold, Aceville publications and ABRSM publishing), in addition to undertaking consultancy work for OMD UK (featured in the Mail Online), the Daily Telegraph and the BBC. Ruth is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Sonic Studies, Musicae Scientiae and Global Listening Centre. She is also Book Reviews Editor for Musicae Scientiae. She is also a member of the Music Education Expo and Musical Theatre and Drama Education Advisory Committee, the NYJC/IoE Jazz and Gender Forum, a trustee for the National Youth Jazz Collective and an external examiner for the Royal Academy of Music (BMus programmes) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (PGCert, Performance Teaching).   

Research interests

Psychology of Music; music in everyday life; music, health and wellbeing; music and consciousness (including ASC and Trance); performance psychology; music in education (including pedagogy); sonic studies, evolutionary psychology, ethology.

Ruth’s previous research has centred around empirical study of the phenomenology of musical experiences in daily life. Between 2012-15 she led the Experiencing Music project (University of Oxford), a nationwide three-year study focusing on the subjective musical experiences of 10-18 year olds and the influence of individual differences in age, personality and training upon involvement with music. She was a Co-Investigator on Playing A/Part (PI Professor Nicola Shaughnessy, AHRC 2018-2021), an interdisciplinary collaboration working with autistic girls, women and marginalised genders to explore subjective experience through participatory arts practices.

Current and future projects include:

  • CREATE ('Creating Research Ecologies to Advance Transdisciplinary Learning on arts-based programmes through the study of adolescent loneliness'. Role: Co-Investigator. PI Paul Cooke, University of Leeds)  
  • Music, Marbling and Trancing (Research England): Multisensory performance and participatory arts project (with N. Kent Mind) for adults living with mental ill health
  • FIT (‘Feeling in Tune’): Understanding and enhancing embodied awareness for elite sports professionals and specialist musicians experiencing chronic pain, through biofeedback and phenomenological study of lived experience
  • Planned recording of contemporary chamber music commissions with the ensemble TableMusic.

Ruth is chair of the University of Kent's Research Network in Music and Health. She is a member of the Steering Group for the Centre for Health and Medical Humanities (CHMH). The Centre creates a space for transdisciplinary exchange across the Division of Arts and Humanities (Canterbury & Medway campuses), uniting researchers investigating the contributions of arts and humanities to health, healthcare, medicine and medical education.


Ruth teaches in the areas of music performance, performance psychology and stagecraft, social and applied psychology, education and wellbeing.  Ruth is strongly committed to helping students achieve their full academic potential and possesses a Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGDipLATHE (Oxon)). She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

In 2018 Ruth and Rich Perks won the University of Kent’s Humanities Faculty Teaching Prize (1st) for: The Integration of Peer-Review, Reflective Feedback, and Reflexivity into the Teaching and Assessment of Music Performance.


Applications from research students interested in the following areas are welcome: music in everyday life; music, health and wellbeing; music in education; music and consciousness.

Current Supervision:

  • Phil Meadows: 'Developing Creative Skill sets for Classically Trained Musicians' (PhD CHASE studentship)
  • Naadia Sheriff: ‘Women in Contemporary UK Jazz: Artistic Voice, Gender and Professional Identity (CHASE CDA with the Dept of Music & Audio Technology (Kent) and National Youth Jazz Collective).
  • Adam Ficek: ‘Professional Musicians’ Experiences of Musicking in Relation to Mental Health’. (DPsych, External Academic Consultant, Metanoia Institute, London)
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