Meet University of Melbourne’s Sabrina McKenzie

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Get to know a student’s experience of studying at The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Sabrina McKenzie is a PhD student in Music Psychology at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music …

Provide an insight into your PhD ...

My PhD explores the role listening to music plays in cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion is a strong predictor of mental health and involves recognising, alleviating, and preventing suffering within oneself. 

My initial study found that 82 per cent of participants experienced self-compassion through listening to music, with many using music to explore and release their emotions.

I’m about to commence new studies, which will analyse Spotify data, and dig deeper into the lived experiences of individuals who use music as a coping mechanism to better understand music’s role.

What motivated you to pursue a doctorate? 

Music has always been a huge part of my life. It was my sanctuary during a challenging childhood; providing comfort and support when I needed it most. 

I pursued a Bachelor of Arts (Music) and later in life expanded my knowledge through a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. 

After my masters I was eager to explore the relationship between music and well-being through a PhD. The Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, with its outstanding network of extraordinary musicians, music psychologists, and creatives, was my top choice. 



Describe a typical day/week …

As a full-time PhD student and mother to three amazing young kids, my typical day/week can change dramatically! My typical day, however, always starts with coffee, followed by reading recent papers on music psychology and analysing my data. Currently, my focus revolves around completing the writing for my first study. This part of my journey includes a significant amount of writing and editing (and coffee!).

What are your main influences?

My personal experiences of childhood trauma and the journey into motherhood, has certainly had an impact on my creative research practice. These challenges have instilled resilience and empathy within me, and the experience of motherhood has enriched my understanding of human connections, emotions, and identity. However, there are many moments where I feel like an imposter and allowing myself to feel “worthy” has been something I have had to overcome on many occasions.

What are your goals?

To complete my PhD; it feels like I have such a long way to go! My pipeline dream is to create a docuseries that explores the lived experiences of individuals who use music as a coping mechanism and to highlight music’s role in cultivating self-compassion. 

What advice would you give to others considering post graduate studies?

Go for it – we need you! The creative arts have been a lifeline for countless individuals amid the isolation and uncertainty of recent times. The impact and potential of this invaluable field is boundless, and there is so much more to explore in arts-based research. •

Join our Facebook Group