Focus on feeling music, not just hearing it

By  Valerie Hill

KITCHENER — When Meaghan Johnson opened Queen Street Yoga studio in 2005, she could hardly imagine that her insight into how the human mind and body work together in harmony would eventually lead her down the street, on the stage with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.

“Working with the symphony, people keep referring to me as an artist,” said Johnson who will be a guest performer at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, Feb. 7 and 8, in a unique concert entitled Sound in Motion: Music & Mindfulness. The concert is part of the innovative and imaginative Intersections series lead by Edwin Outwater and featuring oboist Brian Seaton. Johnson’s job will be to walk the audience through some guided exercises intended to help them not just hear the music, but feel it in their head, their belly and their heart.

She hopes to help the audience move beyond being just consumers of music, to learn how to stop their minds from wandering. Using certain techniques, she said, audiences will learn to hear all the nuances of the music that they might not otherwise notice and it can be a visceral experience.

“I’m really interested with the artistry of being an audience member,” said Johnson, who sold the Kitchener yoga studio in December and is now living in Montreal where she is studying communications at Concordia University.

She even suggests bringing something comforting like a blanket and prepare for a few easy yoga postures, which have been modified given the audience won’t have room to move around. It’s about relaxing the body and opening the heart, she said.

“When you hear a melody you think ‘I like that’ but where do you feel that?” she asked. “Our body is having a reaction, but we have no idea. We get lost in our world and we miss out on what is happening.”

The idea of having a mindfulness educator as part of a concert came from Outwater, said Johnson who admits to being a bit nervous about this new, unique venue for sharing her knowledge.

The evening’s program was created by Outwater and Seaton and will include works by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Dvorak and Albinoni. Also featured will be a work by local composer Peter Hatch, a piece entitled Undr which will highlight the skills of Seaton.

Johnson was recognized as one of Waterloo Region’s Top 40 Under 40 and in 2010 she was named Oktoberfest Woman of the Year in the health and wellness category.

Her skill is in helping people focus, particularly on how their bodies react to outside stimulus, such as music.

“It’s almost like taking a flashlight and saying ‘look here,’ ” she said. “It’s another part of the experience.”

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