Many people turn to classical music for relaxation, but actually playing the music takes a lot of effort and concentration. What do classical musicians do to unwind after snapping their instrument cases closed?
I initiated a group conversation on Facebook recently with several classical music colleagues and friends about their favorite ways to relax.
"I am listening to classical music for pleasure now more than in the past few years," trombonist Benjamin Skroch of Boonville, Ind. (formerly of St. Paul) writes, "especially in the morning, and I really like the change. Even familiar pieces have something to offer on repeated hearings, and the lack of English lyrics gives my brain room to think and get organized for the day, without being too scattered. Having classical music on when sitting on the porch and also hearing the birds sing is pretty cool, too."
Del Lyren, a trumpet player who teaches at Bemidji State University, writes, "I'm very much into nature photography. Nothing beats the relaxation of spending alone time in a state park trying to capture quality images of the beautiful northern part of our state."
Philip McKenzie, an oboist from Thief River Falls, notes that "amateur astronomy has proved a great late-night diversion. Seeing Jupiter with four of its moons, the rings of Saturn, Mars, and the surface of our moon is strangely satisfying. Also the regular visits by the International Space Station put a smile on one's face."
"Are you going to introduce me to Philip McKenzie so we can have a telescope party? I can bring a telescope and my own astrophysicist," writes trombonist Benjamin Skroch, referring to his wife Angie. Benjamin also says he enjoys "paddling canoes, flying or building model airplanes, hikes, walks, or being outdoors to relax."
Vicki Wheeler, a Minneapolis horn player, adds, "Knitting! There is something about knitting that allows my mind to disengage from the spin of a hectic freelancer schedule and just rest. I often enjoy knitting in silence, but if I do listen to music it is almost always something peaceful like Appalachian Spring or the like."
"I like to exercise," writes Pittsburgh violist Jason Hohn. "I often go on a 4-6 mile run before performances to clear my head, feel loose and relax, and rid myself of excess tension."
Mark Nelson, a trumpet player from East Grand Forks, writes, "I try to do a lot of different activities: golf, softball, frisbee golf, camping, shooting, biking, etc. I also try to take as many opportunities as I can to listen to music. For me, it's always been important to try to listen to a lot of different styles of music, not just classical."
"Running, yoga, and meditation have always been a big part of my life," says Minneapolis percussionist Scotty Horey. "In fact, I feel way more connected to classical music as a performer and listener when I am in touch with these activities!"
Kristin Gates, a horn player who currently lives in Tallahassee, Fla., writes that "I also enjoy running, yoga, and meditation as ways to relax. Yoga and meditation have helped my concentration and focus in both the practice room and onstage. Other activities I love include reading sci-fi and fantasy books and cooking."
I'm with Kristin — a good fantasy novel (or a mystery) and some time in the kitchen help me relax. And every once in a while, I listen to the "Humming Chorus" from Puccini's Madame Butterfly to help me unwind as I fall asleep.
Gwendolyn Hoberg is a classical musician and the owner of the editing and writing business Content & Contour. She lives in Moorhead, plays with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, and writes the Little Mouse fitness blog. She is also a co-author of The Walk Across North Dakota.
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