Lately I’ve been stressing about making sure everything is running smoothly for a new music ensemble we’re kickstarting at Minnesota Brass: MBI Winds. While things are generally going smoothly, there’s always concerns from week-to-week: filling our remaining positions, facilities, and staying on budget.

I found myself losing sleep and having high anxiety about it all, and especially about things I couldn’t control. Despite having put together a fairly extensive meditation program for River Valley Sound (728 Cadets winter winds program), I wasn’t putting any of it into practice for myself.

Making Music

This year I also joined one of Minnesota’s many community bands – the North Suburban Concert Band (NSCB). I got my trombone serviced during the pandemic and I was looking for a playing opportunity nearby that both Jessi and I could participate in. NSCB fit the bill, especially since I knew the Director, Shannon Curtis, from River Valley Sound.

Forced Meditation

Something I noticed at rehearsals was that I didn’t have time to worry about everything else. There was literally not enough space between the notes to let my mind wander. Live music has a way of demanding everyone involved to be present. Could I be absent and simply go through the motions? Sure. But live music to me has never been about going through the motions, it’s about turning yourself over to the performance.

This mandatory meditation is magnified in a group setting (i.e. rehearsal). At home during practice there’s always extra space where my mind can wander. At rehearsal everyone is counting on everyone else to do their part, and do it correctly. Be present, or be damned.

Bringing it Home

Some of these self-reflections about making music are things I could incorporate into other areas of my life. Being present for family and work, and not giving way to let anxiety creep in. I’m not there yet, but like the monks say, it’s always a practice.

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