How WFMT Program Director David Polk plans to get more out of attending concerts in 2019

By Keegan Morris |

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My musical New year’s resolution: Listen More Mindfully

Many of the most important and rewarding musical works demand our full attention and were written in and for far less harried times. In Chicago, in particular, we’re lucky to have access to live performances of great works year round, sometimes at low cost or even for free. It’s so easy to take this for granted, and many of us do so unintentionally by arriving at a performance venue in a distracted state of mind. We arrive at the last minute and feel rushed, or we continue answering text messages until the very last minute. How can you fully appreciate a great Bruckner symphony, Wagner’s Siegfried, or Verdi’s Requiem (all three recently performed in Chicago) if you’re still wound up from the work day? These works speak to the immense complexities of the human condition, but you may be distracted by even the thought of receiving a relatively insignificant text message. We deserve better, and so do these masterpieces.

In the new year, I resolve to attend performances in a state of mind closer to that of the yoga pose known as Savasana, or “corpse pose.” Savasana is the most important part of a yoga practice and always performed at the end in a relaxed yet fully awake mindset. It’s a pose that helps one to process life, much like some of the greatest works of art. This is the mindset that, for me, is most receptive to art – especially complex, demanding art.

It’s easier said than done. But I bet with a few simple tweaks I can get a bit closer to achieving mindfulness before a performance. I’m going to try and arrive at concerts earlier, so that I don’t have to rush to my seat. I’m going to turn my cell phone off well before the announcements tell me to do so. I’m going to close my eyes so that I’m not distracted by visuals. And when possible, I’ll try to fit in a workout before a performance (only possible on weekends!) so that I can be more relaxed and awake.