Natalie Lindig is a senior studying Music Education and Flute Performance at Illinois State University. After graduation, she plans to teach general music to elementary students. Outside of her major she serves on the leadership team of her campus ministry, Merge at ISU Wesley, is a flute section leader for the Big Red Marching Machine, and is a sister of the Honorary Music Sorority Tau Beta Sigma.
Take a look at music and mental health from the perspective of a college student studying music. We hope this will broaden your mindset on how music affects each and every one us.
I believe music education is important because it is an art form in which students can learn to express themselves and their emotions safely. Music education creates a safe space for learning and exploration for students of all abilities. Learning how to teach music has affected me as a musician in so many ways. But to name one, it has helped me to be more patient with myself. I have started to shift the way that I talk to myself to how I would talk to a student. Say my problem is a really hard technical passage and I just can’t seem to get it, rep after rep. How would I talk to my student? Would I give up on them, frustrated, and say “okay wow you suck.” OR would I continue to encourage them and find another way to teach it. I think the latter is much better for learning.
Musicians definitely have to be mentally resilient. We beat ourselves up so much. Like I mentioned in the previous answer, our self talk can be ROUGH sometimes. We are perfectionists as musicians. Every single one of us. Because of this, I definitely think music has made me more disciplined, and possible more of a perfectionist haha! But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think discipline and perfectionism to a point is healthy. I just want to be good at what I do. But that balancing act of when does it get to be unhealthy and obsessive is what I’ve struggled with a lot, and I know many of my peers still struggle with. This struggle and journey plays into my everyday life and I think has made me a better person overall because I am able to be disciplined and a perfectionist in every aspect of my life. I’m able to do the absolute best that I can in different aspects outside of music while still knowing when I need to let go and stop obsessing. I think mental health plays a huge role into music because of that. Obviously music therapy is becoming a huge field in helping patients of all kinds, but even to us musicians music can be a cathartic escape from our lives. Yes, it can be the source of our anxiety and obsessiveness if we have a performance coming up, but truly it is our life source. Music, at its roots, is a universal language that stirs up so many emotions in every person who hears it. So it can be an extremely useful tool to express anger, sadness, joy, thanksgiving, and more!
Similar to the above question it has been a battle with my mental health! Music is so competitive, but it also can be so much pressure. This past semester before everything shut down from COVID-19, I performed my junior recital. Leading up to it I was freaking out that nothing was perfect to the point where I would stop in my lessons and start crying if I made a mistake. I got so frustrated with myself that I stopped even trying to be good! That’s what I mean by perfectionism being unhealthy. My lesson’s teacher constantly told me “you need to get out of your head, Natalie.” It all goes back to the negative self talk. Every person on this earth deals with that, but I think my career as a musician made it that much worse. I was able to let go and perform my recital beautifully. But that’s how my mental health has been affected personally.long to an upbeat pop song to feel more happy and awake.
This next question is interesting isn’t it. Ha! This is a different answer than number 3 because us musicians THRIVE off of playing in ensembles. We don’t just love making music on our own instrument, we love making music with other people. This was completely stripped away from us because of the coronavirus outbreak. My relationship with my own flute and music making has actually been so much better. I feel great that I can focus on that and pretty much only that and focus on my skills and improving. However, my mental health has not been great since I haven’t actually been able to make music with anyone. And still I May not be able to in the Fall!! It’s so up in the air. But like I said, it’s so important to all of us musicians to make music with other musicians. It’s a huge part of what we do. So, no, we are not okay in that sense right now. I will for sure bawl my eyes out the next time I get to sit in a band and play with my peers.
For me, the piece I always play on my flute when I’m stressed, anxious, angry, sad, or any negative emotion is Achat Sha’alti by Paul Schoenfeild. It’s based on Psalm 27:4 “I ask only one thing, Lord: Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.” It is a song literally crying out to God asking God to be present in our lives. I am very rooted in my faith, so to go to God in prayer through my flute when words don’t quite work, always brings me to peace. My favorite piece to listen to or play would be Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez!! Oh it’s so much fun!!
I also play piano, and I really enjoy playing ukulele! Recently I learned how to play the cello, too and it was so fun!!
Thank you for reading the fourth installment of the interview series in which we hope to flesh out the relationship between music and mental health. Please visit the tab on mental health to learn more information about the current state of mental health and to find more resources. As always, please read our other articles and interviews and stay tuned for more music opportunities coming up!