The Mindful Musician

In a world that seems to have us constantly running around it is important that we learn to take time for ourselves. This can mean many things for different people, some take time to exercise, while others will read a book or listen to a podcast. For Dr. Robyn Jones, Clarinet Professor and Area Coordinator for Woodwinds, it took on the form of meditation. Over the years Dr. Jones started to practice casual meditation with the aid of different podcast and books, but it wasn’t until this past May that she explored the idea of mindfulness.

Dr. Jones was talking to a colleague when they told her about Koru Mindfulness and the training program associated with it happening in May. Naturally, Dr. Jones was excited to attend the program for her own growth, but she was also thrilled to develop a better tool to help her students. Dr. Jones talked about the stresses that college students are under, especially right now with the pandemic, and she stressed the impact that this can have in the studio. “If their mind is going all these different places and they’re too stressed out then they can’t play very well,” explained Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones talked about how important it is for students right now to be able to practice mindfulness during this pandemic. In music especially, it is important for students to be able to focus and be present in the moment. If the student has a thousand and one thoughts running through their head about past and future concerns, they can’t effectively work and be in the moment. The mindfulness practice is a helpful tool that can assist the students in becoming more focused and centered.

Dr. Jones has used this practice in her lessons before. When she has a student come in that she can tell is struggling, she takes just a few minutes at the beginning of their lesson to guide them through mindful meditation. “Students don’t have to feel bad if they are struggling or if they’re stressed,” emphasized Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones also emphasized the importance of carving out time for yourself. When you practice mindfulness, it gives you the ability to step away from everything. This is vital right now with there being such a blurred line between the division of work and home due to the remote world that we are a part of.

Koru” is the New Zealand Māori word for the spiral shape of the unfurling fern frond. The word literally means “looped” or “spiraled”, but the shape symbolizes harmony or balanced growth, representing layered growth around around a stable center.

This semester Dr. Jones plans on taking her studio class through the Koru Mindfulness training program. In these classes she will start off with a guided meditation, which will then lead into a check in period where students can share their experiences either from the guided mediation or their past week. Each class in the series will introduce one or two new meditation skills. Dr. Jones will also be conducting a research project along with this class series. Hopefully, Dr. Jones will be able to offer this class outside of her studio soon.

This practice is something our students can take with them beyond their time at school or in the practice room. “Mindfulness can be applied to everything you do,” commented Dr. Jones, “We want to be mindful all the time.”

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