Violinists Melissa White and Elena Urioste on Yoga, Movement, and Mindfulness

Melissa White and Elena Urioste are violinists, yoginis, and co-founders of Intermission Sessions, a program that encourages a union of body, mind, spirit, and music-making through yoga and meditation. 

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The two of you have a beautiful friendship. How did you meet?

We met in 2003 via a combination of ENCORE School for Strings, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Sphinx Organization. From a boisterous first meeting in the Curtis common room to our first performance together at Encore (Brahms G Major String Quintet) to countless concerts and tours under the umbrella of Sphinx, it was clear that a strong friendship and natural collaboration was in the cards for us!

What got you interested in yoga, movement, and mindfulness? 

Unbeknownst to each other, we stumbled upon our respective yoga practices at exactly the same time in two different cities! Upon discovering each other’s new passion for yoga in the autumn of 2009, we added this to their list of commonalities (along with first being inspired to play the violin through watching Sesame Street, an obsession with Christmas carols, and a soft spot for chocolate chip cookies) and began to practice together whenever our schedules allowed. Melissa was first taken to a Bikram yoga class by another musician friend and fell instantly in love with the intense heat and focus required; Elena dragged herself to a class amidst a rather pathetic break-up and immediately felt calmer and more empowered. Over the past nine years, the benefits that we have both experienced as a result of a regular yoga practice have been innumerable, from improved muscular control in our violin playing to an increase in self-discipline to a greater sense of peace with the world around us. 

How have your lives changed after beginning to practice these techniques?

Our lives have changed for the better in just about every way imaginable. Our limbs are looser, our minds are clearer, our concentration has improved onstage and in the practice room, and we are able to find a "flow" in our music-making that we often search for and practice on the mat. Physically we have both noticed vast improvements in our full-body strength, resilience, and balance; and meditation has improved our ability to find stillness amidst insanely hectic schedules. Most importantly, yoga and meditation has afforded us space within ourselves to cultivate more love, peace, and calm, which definitely has an impact on our music-making as well as our everyday lives.

What is Intermission Sessions and Retreat?

Intermission is a groundbreaking program that encourages a union of body, mind, spirit, and music-making through the practices of yoga and meditation.  Under the Intermission umbrella exist two types of courses: Sessions, workshops for students; and Retreats, week-long getaways for professional musicians, both of which explore and celebrate the symbiosis between yoga and music. Through yoga, musicians of all ages begin to build greater awareness of their bodies and learn proper alignment to optimize their musical set-ups, practice mental focus and efficiency, and deepen their connections to their inner selves — and, ultimately, to music. 

It's wonderful to see how closely Intermission Sessions and the Lotus Chamber Music Festival's vision and values align. Can we expect to see you make an appearance at the festival in the future?

Absolutely! As soon as our free dates align as well as our vision and values, we are so there. :-)

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Chenoa Orme-Stone