Ep 16: Focusing with Tal Varon

Ep 16: Focusing with Tal Varon

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about tal

Saxophonist Tal Varon (talvaron@gmail.com) has performed in Israel, Europe, the United States, and South Africa, in jazz ensembles and in classical settings, including with the Israel Philharmonic. He currently plays in The Israeli Jazz Orchestra, with which he performs and records. He also plays in small jazz groups, including under his own leadership.

Mr. Varon is on the faculty of the Israel Conservatory in Tel Aviv and the Rimon School of Music, where he teaches a course titled The Art of Practicing and Performing, designed to help musicians overcome stage fright, as well as physical and mental obstacles in practicing and performing. At the Israel Conservatory, he teaches in the joint program with the New School University Jazz department (NYC).

His teaching, which includes saxophone, jazz theory and ear training, improvisation, and ensembles, is informed by a contemplative approach. He has taught both music and meditation, and is a certified teacher of the Art of Practicing. After beginning a personal meditation practice in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage in 2000, he became a certified Meditation Instructor. He is also a certified Focusing Trainer, and in 2016 was the official meditation and Focusing instructor at the API summer program. Tal teaches the Art of Practicing and Performing in a variety of settings in Israel, including workshops and private lessons. He also teaches internationally via Skype.

A recipient of scholarship awards from the America-Israel Foundation, Mr. Varon received a BFA in Jazz performance from The New School University in New York, where he studied with George Garzone.

in this episode

There is so much heart in this conversation. Tal has a beautiful way of giving voice to both the joys and the challenges of a musical life and I am extremely grateful to him for sharing his experience so honestly and graciously. In this episode, we explore:

  • Tal’s musical background and training

  • How the emotional sensitivity that draws many people to music can also go hand-in-hand with a sensitivity to the culture of comparison, competition, and evaluation that is often part of music training

  • What led Tal to take a long break from playing the saxophone after university

  • What eventually led him back to playing with a renewed sense of vitality, joy, and belonging

  • Tal’s experience and connection with The Art of Practicing Institute

  • Why there is no such thing as an ex-musician

  • Being highly sensitive vs being over sensitive

  • How meditation helped Tal accept himself and be with his experience with an open heart

  • How our musical identities can and do change over the course of our lives and how over-identifying with being a musician can be problematic for some

  • Focusing: What it is and how Tal became interested in it

  • How we can develop a relationship to the felt sense of our experience through Focusing and why this can be helpful for musicians in particular

  • How moving beyond language and into the body (or the “felt sense”) can lead us into fuller contact with our experience

  • How tuning in to positive or empowering experiences through the felt sense can help us turn them into resources and sources of nourishment that we can draw on when we are feeling less capable or confident

  • How negative experiences and thought patterns can get “stuck” in our systems and how working with them through the felt sense and learning to be with them a non-judgmental way can help restore a sense natural sense of flow in our lives

  • How we can create a space around and an empathetic attitude towards negative emotions and patterns so we don’t identify as fully with them

  • How these negative patterns can shift without us trying to deliberately resolve or “fix” them

  • How we can use Focusing and the felt sense to stay in contact with the depth of our feeling about music during practice

  • Improvisation as an honest expression of a spontaneous moment and a channel to let what’s inside speak

learn more

The Art of Practicing Institute website (you can find Tal’s email address on the Faculty page)

Website of The International Focusing Institute (for a quick primer, I recommend this article or this one)

The book Tal mentions towards the end: The Highly Sensitive Person

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