Mindfulness and the musician: case studies of an 8-week meditation class for university music students

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I designed a qualitative study that focused on music students’ experiences of an 8-week meditation class. Through surveys and interviews, I assessed to what extent they applied the information or practices from the meditation class into their musical practice and performance. There is little extant research on the role of meditation and music, most of it focusing on the role of practices such as meditation and yoga in ameliorating performance anxiety. Outside of music, qualitative research into meditation has given us a window into how people experience learning meditation, applying it to their lives, and making sense of the new ideas they encounter. Thus, the current study contributes both to our growing understanding of how people process meditation as an experience as well as how musicians might integrate meditative practices into their musical practice and performance. A group of music students (N = 7) participated in an 8-week meditation class, introducing them to a diversity of meditative practices. Completing weekly surveys and a post-interview, each of the participants answered a series of questions relating to their perceptions of music practice, music performance, and meditation. Questions also asked how they had or how they might apply what they had learned in the meditation class to their musical activities. Assessed through a phenomenological orientation, the results present both detailed individual accounts as well as common themes across participants. Results show consistently positive reactions to the class, and results also show a variety of positive benefits attributed to the class, ranging from increased somatic awareness to changes in perception of thoughts and feelings. Moreover, the rich, first-person accounts offer us a window of how people try to make sense of meditation in relation to their spiritual/religious backgrounds and how they reconcile it with their own personal philosophies of music making. Given the small sample size and lack of a control group, further research is needed to assess the validity of themes that emerged in the results of this study. Moreover, future classes may focus more explicitly on transferring meditative practices into musical practices, or, furthermore, may even make an effort to help participants integrate meditative practices and approaches into their musical philosophies.

Mindfulness, Meditation, Music