National Student Exchange Blog

Bethany Pursifull: Crane School of Music & Mindfulness for Musicians

Fall 2023

During the Fall 2023 semester, I had the privilege of attending the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in New York, made possible through the National Student Exchange program facilitated by UCA. This program operates in collaboration with numerous institutions across the United States and Canada. With the dedicated support of faculty and peers, I embarked on an experience that, before this opportunity, seemed beyond reach. After extensive research on various universities, I concluded that the Crane School of Music was the ideal fit for me. Over the semester, I fully immersed myself in the vibrant culture of this esteemed institution in upstate New York. Collaborating with talented colleagues, I had the chance to perform and glean insights from esteemed faculty members within the school. This experience surpassed my expectations and allowed me to grow both personally and academically.

I drove from Arkansas to New York over the span of a few days and arrived on move-in day where I met my roommate who was also studying away for the semester. However, she was from the United Kingdom, which I thought was so cool since I hadn’t met anyone from Europe before. I became friends with her and a few other UK exchange students, and it was so fun to learn about their culture and compare school and home life in America versus the UK. Then once classes started, I was able to start to connect with different people in my classes and with my professors. As a saxophonist, I attended the Crane Saxophone Studio class where we meet once a week to discuss different topics related to saxophone, as well as hear each other play and give feedback. I was able to play for them during the semester and received so many great comments, and it was easy to feel like I was part of the community. I was able to become good friends with and hang out with a lot of the people in my studio since I had classes with a lot of them or we played in the same ensembles, and some of my favorite memories were getting to talk to my colleagues and learn about their experiences.

Furthermore, some of the most inspiring people I encountered were the faculty members. Firstly, my saxophone professor who I took private lessons, Dr. Casey Grev, was an outstanding teacher and mentor for me as I navigated Crane and furthered my saxophone study. He pushed me to better myself musically in unique ways, and I will forever be grateful for his guidance and support. Additionally, I performed as the principal player in the Crane Symphonic Band where I played under the direction of Dr. Brian Doyle. He was a huge inspiration for me and made a conscious effort to get to know me and further my musical abilities. He is one of the best directors I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and he reignited my love of large ensemble playing. He pushed our boundaries every day to make us the best musicians we could be, and I felt honored to perform with them at our concerts over the course of the semester. There were many other classes I took that inspired me as well and brought unique experiences including conducting, music history, vocal techniques, orchestra techniques, percussion techniques, jazz band, etc., and I am extremely grateful for the high level of learning I experienced within these classrooms.

Lastly, I was able to take a new course offered at Crane named “Mindfulness for Musicians,” taught by Dr. Anna Hendrickson. Dr. Hendrickson is experienced in mindfulness and meditation practices, which is the main topic of my Capstone project. Being able to take this course made it possible for me to explore a wide range of mindfulness practices such as meditation, journaling, research, etc. We also delved deeper into many different meditation techniques and practices, and it was very intriguing to see which techniques apply well to musicians. I was able to talk with Dr. Hendrickson about her experiences, as well as dive deeper into my own research on mindfulness over the course of the semester. I also took the time to develop a habit of meditating before my practice sessions and was able to notice a significant improvement in my focus and mental well-being while practicing. Overall, I believe this course assisted in my research and personal journey with mindfulness.

To conclude my excursion, I embarked on a journey back to Arkansas for my winter break, and I made sure to take advantage of the places I would be passing through. I visited many sights such as Niagara Falls, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Lake Erie, downtown Columbus, and downtown Nashville. Throughout the course of this semester, I was able to gain so many new musical experiences, perform with amazing and talented people, learn from esteemed faculty, and further myself personally, musically, and academically. Ultimately, this journey not only enriched me with countless new experiences but also served as a transformative chapter, and I am beyond grateful to everyone at the Crane School of Music, UCA, and the Schedler Honors College who made this experience possible.

View Bethany’s slide deck here.