Omega: When did you first start playing music?
Stuart: Music for me began when I listened to my father play classical guitar. One of my earliest memories is listening to him play. I was about four or five years old. He taught me how to play the guitar in a very simple way by showing me how to play one note. It was an unintentional mindfulness exercise because, upon listening to it and feeling the vibrations of the string against my finger and the vibrations of the box of wood against my body, I just fell in love with it. It made me feel very excited and peaceful.
My music journey began when I took my dad’s old guitar, which I still have, into the woods. I wasn't even trying to play music; I just liked that feeling of deep listening. I would listen to the sounds of the wind and try to mimic it on my guitar. I would listen to the birds and try to mimic them on the guitar. It wasn't till some years later that I got “serious” with the guitar, in my teenage years.
Omega: What strategies or practices help you feel at ease when teaching and performing?
Stuart: My mother was an English teacher in New York City, so I came from a line of teachers.
I also went very deep into a training program with David Darling and his organization Music for People. It's about improvisation, that spirit path, and how stepping into the moment and being okay with the mystery of not knowing what's coming next can not only bring forth profound music but also a profound sense of well-being. My main takeaway was that improvisation is a means of meditating.
The program is also about learning how to transmit these teachings and how to lead workshops that have content, but the content is driven by those who have gathered.
When I teach, I like to say I lead from behind. I always try to serve who is there and be willing to drop my plans to be with them.
When yoga found me, or when I stumbled into the path of taking a deep breath, it changed my life and my music forever. It added depth because my body felt better as I played, from being nourished by prana, but also from being grounded in the moment. Listening and breathing is really central to what I do.