Mindfulness and music: How the Immersive Musical Endeavor teaches a new way to perform

The Immersive Musical Endeavor brings mindfulness into performing live music.
The Immersive Musical Endeavor brings mindfulness into performing live music. Photo provided

When Jon Kabat-Zinn created his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic (MBSR) in 1979 to help chronically ill patients cope with the physical symptoms of their illnesses, I wonder if he knew how consequential his program would be.

The implementation of MBSR was instrumental in starting the mindfulness movement in the west, and this past weekend the fruit of Kabat-Zinn’s efforts made its way to State College in the form of the Immersive Musical Experience at Café 210, an event that featured performances by three local bands: DopplerPoppins, Dogsnack and Something for Nothing.

“The goal of this program was to incorporate mindfulness practices into a functional approach for performing musicians,” Immersive Musical Endeavor creator Matt Price shared in an email.

DopplerPoppins is Price’s funky, experimental rock and jam band that has been performing locally for quite a while to enthusiastic crowds, but Dogsnack and Something for Nothing are newer bands on the scene, and they feature high school aged kids who were students for the four-week long Immersive Musical Endeavor program.

“I really like the idea of integrating many modalities into a holistic practice for musicians,” Price wrote. “I have been teaching and coaching bands for 10 years and for The IME I wanted to try something new that would introduce students to mindfulness.”

Last summer, Price attended Jim Donovan’s Great Rhythm Revival, a four-day festival that incorporates mindfulness, spiritual, and other practices into musical exploration, and that’s when Price got the idea for the Immersive Musical Endeavor.

“My experience has been that students can suffer a lot from performance anxiety leading up to and during a concert,” Price wrote. “Mindfulness is a practice and just like any practice the more you do it the easier it gets. For people interested in performance of any kind being able to stay present to whatever the moment holds is such an important skill and we often are not taught how to do it.”

It was an inspiring event. The Café was packed full of members of the three bands and, in the case of the student bands, the friends and family of the bands. I haven’t seen the main stage area of the Café so full and so full of such positive energy in that way before.

“This is a really cool event,” said DopplerPoppins’ keyboard player Sam Lapp, “I’m so glad that Matt’s students get a chance to perform the music they’ve been working on, and in a real venue, a real downtown State College venue.”

Naturally, the parents were also grateful for the program, what Price has helped their kids accomplish, and what it may mean for their kids in the future.

“It’s great,” said Pat Hillard, father of Dogsnack drummer Colin Hillard. “He wants to go to college for music so this is a start. ... He’s come a long way in four years.”

Colin Hillard echoed his father’s sentiments.

“It’s really fun,” he said. “You get to hang out with your friends and that after everything you get to go up on stage and play. It’s awesome.”

The Immersive Musical Endeavor was a year in the making, and the program not only taught musical skills but also mindfulness practices to help kids with their performances. According to Price, this may only be the beginning.

“I want to thank all the students, parents and teachers for participating and being a part of something new,” Price wrote. “I would like to host this program again in the future after reflection and integration of the experience.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.