Canterbury Starts Day with Mindful Music

Oct. 3, 2017 -- We’ve all experienced harried mornings – lunches to be made, homework to be completed, instruments and sports equipment remembered before rushing out the door for multiple drop-offs at multiple buildings. Some students begin their school day already frazzled, stressed at having almost been late or annoyed with that parent who had to nag them ten times to, “Hurry up!”

Canterbury Elementary School has a unique solution, a way to lower everyone’s heart rates and calmly prepare for the day ahead: Listen to classical music.

Mindful Music Moments, a project of City Silence out of Cincinnati, introduces entire school buildings to classical music accompanied by prompts designed to promote mindfulness. Every morning of the school year, a four-minute selection of music is played over the PA system at Canterbury, with all students, teachers and support staff pausing to listen quietly. The accompanying instructions introduce the composer and selection as well as encourage specific strategies for mindfulness, such as how to focus on one’s breathing.

You can feel the shift in the building immediately. The normal morning hustle and bustle – stowing coats and backpacks, greeting peers, shuffling papers – is replaced by a profound, building-wide quiet. A stillness, even in an always busy office where the lights are dimmed or the hallways, where students pause or are whisked into nearby classrooms.

Adults and children sit silently, some with their eyes closed, some swaying slightly, as they simply listen.

The impact is felt by all. Third grader Caven Neal likes Mindful Music Moments “because it makes me feel relaxed so then I can feel good for the start of the day.”

Classmate Brooklyn Stevens agreed: “It makes me feel powerful. Like if we’re having a hard time getting started, this gives me the power to make it better.”

Ryann Moore, another third grader in Carla Huter’s class, said, “It calms you down when you’re stressed out.”

That is exactly the point. At the suggestion of a parent last spring, Principal Dr. Erica Wigton explored the program and was impressed. But she wanted the ultimate decision to be up to her teachers. “They had to believe it was worth it to give up five minutes of instructional time,” she explained. So she arranged for Stacy Sims, a representative of the program, to give a formal presentation at the staff’s annual retreat in August.

“They were all excited about it.” She then gave them the option of choosing whether to use the program individually or as a whole school, and if the latter, at what time of day. Teachers overwhelmingly opted for the entire school to engage in this at once, in order for it to have the greatest impact. And morning was hands down the desired “moment.”

“Our mornings are so hectic,” said second grade teacher Sherry Esper. “I might enjoy it more than my kids do!”

Her students, who sit with the lights off, certainly seem to enjoy it.

Braxton Dedino-Sadler now listens to classical music in the car with his mom.

“When my mom rushes from work to come get me in the afternoon, we play classical music. It’s nice and calming.”

That calming effect seems to be carrying over as teachers have reported that their mornings are going more smoothly and students seem to be more focused and listening better. Dr. Wigton emails the week’s selection, much of it played by the Cleveland Orchestra, to the staff in case they want to play it again for their students at other times of day.

Even parents have benefitted from the music. School volunteer Jill Barr reported that she “really needed that moment of quiet in the morning. It’s such a nice way to start the day.”