Music

South Beach Sound Healing Orchestra Brings Calm to Miami Beach Bandshell

Written By Helena Alonso Paisley
January 24, 2024 at 4:03 PM

The South Beach Sound Healing Orchestra presents a community event designed to allow attendees to experience the ancient
practice of healing through sound vibrations at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28 at the Miami Beach Bandshell. (Photo courtesy of Ely Bistrong)

“Sound healing is hard to explain,” says Jared Bistrong, founder of the South Beach Sound Healing Orchestra, which will be hosting a free, large-scale community event on Sunday, Jan. 28 at the Miami Beach Bandshell.

While people have likely been using music as a therapeutic tool for thousands of years, only in the early 2000s did the idea of planning soundscapes in a meditative space become a cultural phenomenon in yoga studios and spiritual centers around the United States.

Drumming is an essential component of the community sound healings. (Photo courtesy of Ely Bistrong)

Bistrong, a Miami native whose daytime gig is teaching instructional design at Barry University, had been experimenting with the healing power of music for decades before the wellness community got on board.

“I’ve been kind of dabbling in doing ‘sound healing’ for a long time before the term was even around. I didn’t realize that that’s even what I was doing,” says Bistrong. As an educator, he had used drumming with high school-age students because he had seen how it affected his own well-being.

“I was teaching poetry workshops to homeless teenagers living in youth shelters in the mid-’90s,” says Bistrong, who has a master of arts degree in creative writing from Florida State University. “I began to bring in a drum of mine, which at the time I was just kind of discovering, and it was having such a grand impact on just my overall self.”

As the drum kept making appearances at the poetry workshops, it began to make a difference.

“It ended up just creating such a powerful environment for these at-risk teenagers to just support all this incredible poetry.”

It was the first time he had used sound in other contexts “to kind of helping promote learning” and to get students to “open up.”

Eventually, he jumped on the wellness bandwagon, using what he had learned through his work as an educator to create his practice creating sonic experiences that, by moving energy, would put people in a deeply meditative and relaxed state.

“At one point,” explains Bistrong, “I was probably one of the only persons in Miami doing sound healing. That’s before the term caught on, you know?”

After practicing sound healing for many years, Jared Bistrong founded the Miami Sound Institute to train others to use the healing powers of sound in their own lives and communities. (Photo courtesy of Sean Pozin)

Aware of what an impact his work was having on people’s well-being, Bistrong eventually wanted to kick it up a notch and broaden his reach. To that end, he founded the Miami Sound Institute, where he trains others from all walks of life in the sound healing arts.

“The idea of sound healing or meditation being stuck in some studio somewhere,” he says, “was difficult for me, especially since I had already been doing it out there where I was having an impact in real environments where people really needed it. And so, once I founded the institute, I began teaching with the idea of getting it out there into the workplaces, into people’s families, into the churches, into the schools and just wherever people are.”

His students? Just regular everyday people.

“That’s what I love about them,” he says.  “There’s a whole wide range from doctors to lawyers, to accountants, to stay-at-home moms, to massage therapists, acupuncturists . . . hat’s the beauty of sound. It’s so universal.” These students, in turn, take what they have learned to their own homes and into their own spheres of influence, magnifying the Institute’s impact even further.

With a larger group of practitioners, Bistrong can also plan bigger sound healing events, like the one set for the Bandshell.

The orchestra was formed to enable large-scale events where attendees may feel the “sweep of energy” that big groups of people can often tap into. (Photo courtesy of Ely Bistrong)

“We’ve done some events with hundreds and hundreds of people,” he says, “and we’re hundreds and hundreds going into a deep meditative state together.”

I ask him why bigger is better.

“It’s like when you go to a stadium full of cheering people, right? The football team, the home team can feel the cheering and the energy. It just changes the entire nature of the game, right? It’s like the more people, the more energy we have access to,” he explains. “As a group, if you massage the energy of the group, slowly the group starts to let go and relax. There’s just like a sweep of energy that comes through the whole space of people.”

Sunday’s event will last about two hours, the first of which is interactive movement, he says.

“We want to get everybody prepared for the sound healing to get everybody up . . . move around, do some breathing and some qigong, some energy work to get the energy of the group focused and centered.” When the drumming starts, people shake off that energy and dance. At the end of the first hour, participants are asked to lie down on their yoga mats and simply let go. The lights dim, the mood shifts and the hour-long sound journey begins. Some of the musicians will remain onstage, while others walk around the space, playing their instruments over the participants, who will be able to literally feel the sound all around them. The goal is to simply let go.

One of the principal instruments of the orchestra is the digeridoo, a simple wind instrument from Australia that dates back millennia. (Photo courtesy of Sean Pozin)

“It’s immersive,” Bistrong says, “a very immersive experience. People will come out of there and they’ll feel they’ve gone on a trip.”

“You know, as a culture, everybody’s on edge,” he says. “We’re just hyper-teched, and all the things that are happening, it’s just too much for us to process. And so our sessions, that’s what they do. They provide people a reset,” a space to relax and a release from the pressures of our stressful lives.

So, whether you vowed to do more for yourself and your health in 2024, you’ve had a tough week, or if you’re simply curious about what sound healing can do, bring a mat, a blanket and an open mind to the Bandshell on Sunday evening and allow the South Beach Sound Healing Orchestra’s sonic landscape to wash over you, relax your body and reset your spirit.

WHAT: South Beach Sound Healing Orchestra

WHERE: Miami Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28

COST: Free with registration here. Participants should bring a blanket and a yoga mat (there will be 50 at the event for those who need one).

INFORMATION: miamibeachbandshell.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

 

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