Mindfulness Strategies for Musicians

The Mindful Musician

Dr. Alexander Kahn, Director of Orchestral Studies and Professor of Music at Sonoma State University, is a mindfulness practitioner and co-author of Caring for the Whole Musician, published by Routledge Press in 2022. This summer, Dr. Kahn will offer week-long lectures and workshops, serve on a panel of faculty during masterclasses, and engage in dialogues on mindfulness and music. The curriculum includes

This program is open for all musicians with different instruments.

The Art of Practicing: how to practice more effectively, efficiently, and joyfully

Is it the right time to say this?

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it kind?

Metta practice can be effective in all types of situations, from a solo practice session to a full ensemble rehearsal to a performance in front of a large audience

"In a way, playing music is already akin to contemplative practice: It is something we step into (ideally) every day that exists outside of our normal everyday worries and cares, that takes us to a realm outside of language, outside of time, that actually serves no practical purpose whatsoever yet feels completely essential to who we are as human beings. Incorporating mindfulness practices into our musical lives serves to heighten this experience, to “prime the pump” so that making music can be a joyful, blissful, transformative experience that we can look forward to, and can use as a model for positive and meaningful interactions with the world beyond the concert hall. Just as mindfulness and presence can be a gateway to great music-making, so too can great music-making be a gateway to presence, both for us as performers and for the world around us." — Alexander Kahn, Caring for the Whole Musician 

Meet the Faculty 

Dr. Alexander Kahn

Director of Orchestral Studies, Professor of Music

Sonoma State University


Co-Author, Caring for the Whole Musician, Routledge Press, 2022

On Mindfulness and Music


Assistant Conductor

Santa Rosa Symphony


Advisory Board

California Orchestra Directors Association

Biography

Alexander Kahn is Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Activities at Sonoma State University. At Sonoma State he directs the Sonoma State Symphony Orchestra and teaches courses in conducting, music history, musicianship, and general education. Alexander comes to Sonoma State from Gettysburg College, where he was Associate Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Activities at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music. Previous university-level orchestras with whom Alexander has worked include the UC Berkeley Chamber Orchestra (Founder and Music Director) and the UC Berkeley Symphony (Assistant Conductor).

In addition to his educational activities, Alexander has worked with professional and festival orchestras across the United States and throughout Europe. Currently he serves as  Assistant Conductor for the Santa Rosa Symphony, as well as Music Director of the Vintner’s Chamber Orchestra, a professional chamber orchestra that performs at wineries throughout Sonoma and Napa counties. Previous positions he has held include Music Director of the Metta Ensemble (Gettysburg, PA), Cover Conductor for the Baltimore Symphony, Staff Conductor for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, Assistant Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, and Music Director of the Bamberg Collegium Musicum. Recent guest conducting engagements have included work with the Mill Valley Philharmonic, Festival Opera of Walnut Creek, Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, and middle school and high school honor orchestras throughout California.

Alexander earned a PhD in Music History from UC Berkeley and remains active as a scholar. His dissertation entitled “Double Lives: Exile Composers in Los Angeles” focused on the community of European exiles who fled to Los Angeles during the Third Reich. He has lectured and published on this topic and other issues related to World-War II-era music history, as well a on a variety of topics including music and mindfulness meditation, the history of film music, and the history of amateur music-making in America. He is a frequent pre-concert lecturer at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center and regularly gives talks on the Met Opera Live series at the Sebastopol Library. His book on mindfulness and music, Caring for the Whole Musician, was released by Routledge Press in 2022.

Alexander’s love of music was inherited from his father, Eugene Kahn, a conductor and educator on Long Island. His primary conducting studies were at UC Berkeley with David Milnes and at the Peabody Institute with Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. He has also participated in workshops with teachers including Larry Rachleff, Kenneth Kiesler, Daniel Lewis and Peter Gülke. 

When not conducting, Alexander enjoys cooking, hiking, reading, and travelling, and spending time with his wonderful wife and daughter.

Workshop Reviews

"Thank you so much for organizing and putting on the audition workshop by Dr. Kahn. My entire career as a bassoonist I have always fought against my stage/audition fright and I cannot express how grateful I am to both you and Dr. Kahn. On that stage tonight, I played the best I have ever played as a solo performer. The tips that Dr. Kahn gave me were instrumental in my performance and I cannot describe how incredible it felt to play the music on that stage with the crowd and no stage fright for the first time in my life. I really appreciate the growth you have brought to this program. I wish I had this workshop 5 years ago when I first started getting serious about my musical career and auditions. Again thank you so much.”

Participant, The Art of the Audition workshop with the Santa Rosa Youth Orchestra


“Dr. Kahn brought to light inner dimensions of a musician’s life practice that are not often addressed in such a focal way. Having a dedicated hour, and a formal detailed exploration of nourishing practices to cultivate calm, presence, resilience and true musical enjoyment even in tough situations as very valuable especially in the formative years.” 

Parent of participant, The Art of the Audition workshop with the Santa Rosa Youth Orchestra


“Your session on mindfulness in the orchestra rehearsal was eye-opening in many ways and very useful. I have been fairly well acquainted with mindfulness techniques on a personal level, but had not made concrete connections to the orchestra rehearsal until hearing your talk at the CODA conference in DC. I found your talk well-researched, well thought-out, and most importantly, full of genuinely new and immediately useful insights and techniques. I have begun integrating several techniques since returning to my home institution, and have noted an increase level of engagement (particularly in terms of listening) of the musicians I work with. Many thanks!” 

– Timothy Dixon, Director of Orchestras, Messiah College


“Dr. Kahn's presentation on mindfulness was eye-opening from the standpoint of a fellow conductor and a musician. All of us often have distractions, attitudes, and habits that hinder success when it comes to rehearsing and practicing. This talk gave me a fresh perspective on how both conductors and orchestra players can approach every rehearsal or practice session with a healthier, more focused mindset.” 

– Paul Kim, Director of Orchestras, Old Dominion University

Program Fee

One Week: $1,500

The rates include tuition, room, and board. 

Learn more: Financial Assistance and Scholarships