Buckeye Beat: Mindful Music

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[David] Chase is a third grader at Canterbury Elementary in Cleveland Heights. He loves it when his mom cooks up some breakfast for him before school, but that doesn't happen very often.

[Chase] Most of the time, when I wake up she's gone to work, so my dad has to get himself really, he has to iron my clothes, he has to get my sister ready too.

[Teacher] Good morning.

[David] But for the past year and a half, he's been able to leave some of that stress behind when he gets to the classroom. Every morning at nine o'clock, students at Canterbury stop for a moment and listen to a few minutes of Cleveland orchestra music.

  • It's like when you're at home, it's cold outside and you're sitting by a fireplace. All this stuff that was stuck in my head, it goes away.

[David] This exercise is part of an Ohio-grown relaxation program called Mindful Music Moments. Chase's teacher, Jasmine Venson, says the whole school does it at the same time.

  • We play it over the loudspeakers, and every classroom kind of individualizes it in their own way. Some classrooms have it where everybody is just centered and their eyes are closed. Others work on an activity while their listening. But all classes participate.

[David] The daily music segments are about four minutes long in total, which includes a brief spoken introduction followed by a three-minute musical selection.

  • For the whole week you listen to the same song, but there are different activities that are included each day of the week, whether it be listen to the music, or try to find the pace of the music, or try to align your breath to the pace of the music, different things like that.
  • We have kids coming from parents that are just trying to make ends meet, working third shift, single parents, so we try to make school a special place. That's one of the reasons we feel Mindful Music is a great way to start the day, 'cause it re-centers everyone, including myself. We just take a deep breath so we're not starting frantically in the hyper mode start of the day.

[David] Mckenna lives in Cleveland Heights with her mom. She's a K-pop and a hip hop fan, but she says she kinda likes this classical stuff that she's been hearing in the mornings.

  • I like it a lot. I just kinda want to calm down. Really have to rush to get ready, have to eat breakfast really quickly, and so, when I get to school, everyone's like it's gonna be a long day.

[David] The program is currently in place at over 100 schools across the country. It's the brainchild of Cincinnati yoga and movement educator Stacy Sims, who also help trauma victims relax.

  • I was out of school, working every morning with refugee students, and I knew I could never spend that much time in a school day in other schools, but I heard the morning announcements, and it occurred to me that that could be a delivery system for some sort of mindful moment for all, and I had the idea to pair it with classical music.
  • And when you hear about it, the light bulb just goes off, and I thought, "We've gotta try that up here in Cleveland."

[David] Joan Katz Napoli has run the Cleveland Orchestra's education efforts for the past 24 years, working with Cleveland-area schools to supplement their music programs.

  • There are plenty of research studies that document the effectiveness of music to improve learning outcomes, to enhance brain development.

[David] About 30 schools in Greater Cleveland use Mindful Music Moments in grades ranging from kindergarten through middle school, and that list includes both inner city and suburban districts.

  • There's no school that's immune from the stress and anxiety caused by school shootings over the last decade, for example, or any one of a number of things that are stressing out both students and teachers these days.

[David] In addition to the music, participating schools get supplemental background materials and fun facts the teachers can work into their lesson plans.

  • A fun fact might be that Mozart started composing at the age of five. And if you're working with young kids, that's mind boggling.

[David] Carin has fond memories of the first time the music was played in her classroom.

  • So they said imagine yourself that you just an Olympic. And it felt really good to imagine that.
  • When I look at what was happening in schools 20 or 30 years ago and what's happening now, first of all, school music programs have been decimated, so part of what arts organizations need to do is to help fill the gap.

[David] And for the orchestra, there's the potential for a new generation of listeners. Mckenna says the music has really grown on her, and it's almost a letdown when that three-minute morning dose is over.

  • I wish it would replay 'cause I just want to listen to it.
  • We really try to make this place a special place and to build a relationship with them in a place that they feel safe. And here they are now. Can you give us a nice wave?
  • Erica Wigton notes that there are many things that can help with school climate. She sees Mindful Music Moments as one strategy to make school less stressful as the children are learning to cope with an increasingly frantic world.
  • It's definitely a permanent program that we're gonna continue to use every day, just because we want to start their day on a beautiful, calm way so they're ready to learn.

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