Mindful Music Making Inaugural Launch

“I have seen students from K-12 close their eyes (still contributing to the music meditation) and zone out through the music being made. They have said, “Thank You, Ms. C….I feel so calm and can get through the day!” Mindful Music Making should start every student’s day!!! K-12!!!!”

— Mindful Music Making Creator, Karen Calhoun


Mindful Music Making was conceived by Karen Calhoun, award-winning music educator and former Director of Visual and Performing Arts for Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District in Los Angeles County. Through creating nature soundscapes, participants center their energy, restore their focus, reduce their stress, and improve their mood.  The process creates a positive learning environment while building a sense of community.

Field observations of Mindful Music Making have demonstrated its immediate calming effects with a variety of populations across the lifespan. Click here to view short video clips of kindergarten students from Des Moines Public Schools engaging in Mindful Music Making  on March 11, 2020.

With funding from the NAMM Foundation,* in 2020-2022, we have developed and piloted tested a Mindful Music Making training program with teachers from Turnaround Arts: CA schools serving students from kindergarten to 8th grade. The training program was delivered in three parts to support teacher schedules and implementation.

Due to the pandemic, in year 1, Mindful Music Making sessions were delivered in a virtual context with limited use of instruments with students.  Nonetheless, these teachers reported similar benefits as Year 2 teachers who were delivering sessions in person.  Mindful Music Making led to numerical improvements in focus, mood, centeredness/calmness, participation in learning, self-expression, and stress reduction.

In year 2, teachers also reported the following outcomes in narrative form.


Anecdotes or Elaboration on Observed Behavior Changes (after training session #2):

  • They all want to express how they feel after listening to an instrument or playing an instrument. I had one student say it made him relax and feel calm. He tends to be hyper in my class. His mother recently had him tested and he has been diagnosed as ADHD.
  • Calmness as we play instruments.
  • Calmer and ready to learn after the session.
  • The students do truly enjoy the instruments but watching them dance with the scarves is my favorite, especially the little ones who are so free with them.
  • They don’t want to leave class at the end.
  • Students are always asking to play the instrument.
  • The fact that my students are using words such as relaxed, soothing, and calm. It has an impact on themselves and their learning.
  • Increased emotional regulation.
  • Today, my students were allowed to use scarves during Mindful Music. Majority of the students especially male students love using the scarves. They shared their movement of their scarves with one another. They were non judgmental when other students showed off their scarves movement.


Anecdotes or Elaboration on Observed Behavior Changes (after training session #3):

  • Surprisingly they are letting go of their need to have those specific instruments and just being with the music and the moments.
  • Overall engagement increase and participation during group activities.
  • The students would ask me if we can play the instruments to calm themselves.
  • The music helps reset the mood of the class.
  • They look forward to mindful music.
  • Students look forward to playing the instruments & followed the rules of handling the instruments just to get the opportunity to use them.
  • I have one student who gets depressed, I allow her to play with the instruments especially the tongue drum for 5 minutes to relax her mind. Since teaming up with another class, my class has taken on leadership roles in guiding the other students during the mindful music.
  • The music helps us think peacefully.
  • The music seems to calm the students down.
  • Students appear more calm after an activity – decreased self-stimulatory behaviors.
  • Students are better listeners in general.
  • The students were very calm and engaged in the activity.
  • After we play the instruments some of them want to meditate.


How teachers have benefited personally from Mindful Music Making:

  • Anticipating a session has made them exercise a little more self control leading up to it. That is always helpful to me.
  • It has helped me to calm down, take a deep breath and not feel so stressed on the job. It has reminded me to be more patient with my class and not get upset or stressed with their behavior.
  • I have learned a lot. I have incorporated music vocabulary and music appreciation.
  • Yes but I would like to learn more ways to integrate the use of the instruments in the classroom.
  • It is helping me to check in with my emotional state and center myself, as well.
  • It helps me to calm down on stressful days.
  • It makes our room a happy environment.
  • It has helped me as well. I’ve engaged in a journey with my students and it helps me as a teacher, to be more effective and connect with my students.
  • It helps me calm as well during a stressful day.
  • I am very happy using Mindful Music in my classroom. I play the Moyo drum when I just want to clear my head. It allows me to become centered and relaxed.
  • It has made me more calm & relaxed. It lowers my anxiety to be more patient and move in a calmer pace with my class.


Anecdotes or examples of the effective teacher use of nonjudgmental language to enhance social-emotional well-being in students during Mindful Music Making and in general:

  • I get more participation from students that normally will not participate. My students are more willing to elaborate on how they feel.
  • I had the attention of my students as I spoke in nonjudgmental language.
  • At 2nd grade they are mostly eager to please. It really helps encourage positive behavior.
  • I asked, What did you notice? The student answered that he noticed it was quiet when the music ended.
  • I’m not sure my students are tuning in what I’m saying due to language delays but I find the language helpful for my awareness and focus.
  • Most of my students especially the shy or quiet students are willing to express their feelings or thoughts. They don’t feel insecure.
  • Students are more comfortable and don’t feel embarrassed.
  • I hear the energy in your voice.
  • Using nonjudgmental language in the classroom helps boost self-esteem and confidence in all areas of study.
  • I noticed when I started using the nonjudgmental language, the students also started using it. They are kinder with their words to each other. It also seems like the students are not really looking for validation for me anymore.
  • Most students are engaged and participate. Has lowered their affective filter.
  • It really helps the students feel accepted.
  • My students are excited to engage in these activities. I’ll definitely purchase some of these instruments for my class.
  • I asked “I wonder how it would sound when there’s a thunderstorm” and the other students listened for the thunder tube by quieting down.
  • I use it every minute of every day already.
  • When I use nonjudgmental language I notice my students volunteer more and express how they feel. Usually their statements are positive and you can see a gleam in their eyes.


* The NAMM Foundation’s mission is to advance active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.



To register for Mindful Music Making (8/2/2022), please click here.