Orchestra strikes a chord with Mindfulness


Photo by Brianna Frank

WCHS’s orchestra concerts are made possible by Orchestra director, Kristofer Sanz. His special mindfulness days puts his students playing and mental health at their best.

By Brianna Frank, Advertising and Subscriptions Manager

WCHS’s orchestra has become known for its incredible interactive performances. However, this reputation could not have been formed without the orchestra first bonding as a musical family. The orchestra director, Kristofer Sanz, not only engages with his students through musical teachings, but through exercises that encourage mental health awareness on Fridays. Sanz likes to call these special days Mindfulness Days.

“Our mindfulness involves a 25-40 minute session,” Sanz said. “During this time we incorporate stretching, tension-reducing body scans, unified breathing as well as long periods of guided quiet mindfulness.”

Students participate in numerous stretches, breathing exercises, and journaling. Orchestra students keep a special notebook specifically for journaling which allows them to keep a private space for journaling prompts.

“Over the past year, I have curated a very special list of journaling prompts that begin very easy and get deeper and more personal as the weeks progress,” Sanz said. “As kids get more comfortable with Mindfulness and journaling the prompts open up deeper chambers of their hearts and souls and provide them a chance to really reflect on who they truly are.”

Mindfulness days originally started five years ago throughout the WCHS orchestra program. It was quickly halted when COVID-19 forced students into stressful online learning situations. It was more consistently brought back for the 2022-2023 school year.

“I decided to bring back Mindfulness this year partially because of student interest but also because some of the music we were going to be performing was of a very mature and passionate nature and I wanted to make sure the musicians fully understood and could process this deeply emotional music,” Sanz said. “We also found that many students looked forward to this time to help decompress and also to have a safe space to let their guard down and truly be themselves, something they don’t get a chance to do very often in a high school setting.”

While being in the orchestra can sometimes be demanding for a student, this balance of work and destress time allows students to play at their full potential. This isn’t a practice found commonly in any other WCHS class, but it has proved to be beneficial for the overall orchestra family.

“Mindfulness makes the Churchill Orchestra unique because we are not only focused on good intonation, accurate rhythms and technique but we are also focused on the players in the orchestra,” sophomore Michelle Zhao said.

Mindfulness days not only prepare students for orchestral music, but they bring together the orchestra family closer as a whole. It is a chance for students to explore their thoughts and themselves in a safe environment.

“Usually, we try to do Mindfulness any Friday we have a full week,” Sanz said. “Sometimes, if I feel a certain negative or angsty energy in the room we will also shift immediately to an impromptu Mindfulness since we are not able to fully devote ourselves to our passionate music if we are not in the right headspace.”

Mindfulness is a day loved by orchestra students and they are always excited for the time to have a break. Whether it be the calming stretches, deep thoughts in journaling or even simply taking a quick nap, Mindfulness is an opportunity to clear the mind to better every student.

“Mindfulness in the orchestra creates a safer and more comfortable environment for all the musicians,” Zhao said.