Mindfulness Strategies for Musicians

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 to students, professionals, and amateurs 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 Fees & Learn More

Residential

1-week Programs: $1500 | Educator or Group Rate*: $1100/person

2-week Programs: $3000| Educator or Group Rate*: $2200/person

Residential rates include tuition for all program offerings, a single occupancy room, three nutritious and delicious vegetarian meals everyday during your time here.

Non-residential (full time)

1-week Programs: $1000| Educator or Group Rate*: $750/person

2-week Programs: $2000 | | Educator or Group Rate*: $1500/person

Full time non-residential rates include tuition for all program offerings, three nutritious and delicious vegetarian meals everyday during your time here.

*Group rate applies to a group of 2+ people. 

Non-residential (part time)

5-day package: $500

This rate includes tuition for program offering from 7am - 2:30pm, and two nutritious and delicious vegetarian meals (breakfast and lunch) for 5 days.

Learn more: Schedule, Scholarships, 2024 Summer Facilities

Alexander Techniques & Body Mapping

Awareness, a Well of Potential

(AT) is a scientific, educational method that uses a series of principles that, when embodied, allows one to have a full kinesthetic experience and a more meaningful relationship with one’s artistry. AT is powerful because it is a method of “thinking” in activity that cultivates greater ease and efficiency in movement.

 In a group setting, we shall explore some of F.M. Alexander’s Discoveries:


 Our greatest illusion is to believe that we are what we think we are.

--Henri-Frédéric, French Philosopher

“He was always in a hurry to get where he was not.”

--Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Class Structure


Body Mapping and Structures and Movement of Breathing

Primary Movement

Body Mapping

The Structures and Movement of Breathing

Meet the Faculty 

Dr. Larry Lee Hansel

Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique

Alexander Contemporary School, Santa Fe, New Mexico


Certified Teacher Member

Alexander Technique International (2007 to current date)


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

On Alexander Technique


Doctor of Musical Arts 

Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York

Biography

As an educator, Hensel draws upon his Eastman pedigree (D.M.A. and M.M. in Vocal Performance and Literature), twenty-five years of teaching experience and his skills as a Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique to equip developing singers, actors, dancers, and puppeteers to thrive in the complex arts of singing, acting and movement, and the imaginative world of storytelling. 

His burgeoning passion for puppet construction and performance led to his acceptance for three consecutive summers at the esteemed Eugene O’Neill Puppetry Conference." Hensel is currently constructing puppets for his company, “Opera in a Gym,”—a touring operatic outreach ensemble for young audiences.

As a Director, his pedagogical fervor for training young artists in collaborative decision-making and strategies for a heightened sense of physical and mental awareness has led to mainstage operatic productions that span the history of the genre and have been met with critical acclaim. Hensel shares his enthusiasm and expertise for Alexander Technique in workshops and clinics throughout the US.

Reviews

. . . “In the master class, Larry spent time going through the structures and movement of breathing, in a way that was easily understandable and engaging. When Dr. Hensel began to put educated “Alexander Hands” on the pianists and the singers (especially dealing with the ribs) – their performance took on another quality that was easy, natural, and distinctive. Once certain patterns of tension were identified, Larry helped the student with awareness strategies that would help them perform with ease and efficiency.”

-- Dr. Grant Wenaus, Artistic Collaborator, Principal Coach and Assistant Conductor, Glimmerglass Opera Festival, Assistant Conductor and Pianist, Sarasota Opera


“I am happy to add my endorsement Dr. Larry Hensel’s Alexander Technique classes and instruction. I have studied Alexander at various times during my career with a number of instructors, and I enthusiastically rank Dr. Hensel among the best. I have taken his course at the University of Wyoming and had numerous individual sessions with him. Both were of the greatest benefit for me. As a fellow musician, he completely ‘gets’ what it is we do and what we need!”


-- James Przygocki, Professor of Viola; Director, UW String Project, University of Wyoming



The Mindfulness Strategies for Musicians Program is a part of the larger summer music programs we offer. Participants can choose to attend other programs for an extensive experience. The overall experience is enriched by daily contemplative and wellness practices (Taiji, meditation, holistic lifestyle consultation), one-on-one and group classes and coaching, individual practice times, vegetarian meals, and the supportive environment of living in a wholesome community.