The sugary sands, gentle ocean breeze and spectacular sunset on Siesta Beach played the perfect hosts to the MindTravel Live-to-Headphones Silent Piano Experience on Friday, January 26. Pianist and composer Murray Hidary played peaceful, beautiful, improvisational music that connected the audience members with nature and each other. Throughout the concert, everyone embarked on their own unique, multi-sensory, meditative journey—some dancing, some walking, while others just sat still, letting the music take them away.

Ten years ago, Hidary–a businessman, tech pioneer, pianist, composer, physics lover and photographer–combined all of his passions to create MindTravel, an immersive experience in nature in which improvisational piano music is delivered through wireless headphones. Initially, MindTravel was Hidary’s own private practice. He later performed in theaters, but he quickly realized that his greatest inspiration came from sitting by the ocean. He then figured out a new way to deliver his concert through headphones, which was something that had not ever been done before. Then came the addition of meditation, which Hidary had been practicing for many years; it helped him through the sudden and tragic death of his little sister. From there, Hidary discovered that music absolutely could help people heal. 

“We only grieve as intensely as the love we feel. We hold onto that love, reconnect with that love and filter that love through the grief,” he explains. “Every time I sit at the piano, I'm really visualizing. My sister was a beautiful dancer, and so I imagine her at the other end of the piano, starting to dance with my first note. Music is the language of emotion and can help us navigate our most difficult feelings.” 

Photography by Wes Roberts

MindTravel is about connecting people with a sense of wonder to bring nature, music and community together, according to Hidary. “Those are the ingredients of any MindTravel experience, especially the one at Siesta Beach,” he says. “The beach, while being beautiful, would be a terrible acoustic environment between the wind and the ocean and the birds. And it would be hard to hear music if I was just playing the piano there, but because I am delivering the music through the headphones, it's like I'm playing for each person individually.” Participants of MindTravel Experiences come prepared with blankets, beach chairs and picnic baskets, as Hidary invites them to walk the landscape, put their feet in the water with the headphones on and do whatever they like during his performances. “It's like you have a front-row seat because the sound is going to go with you, creating this tremendous freedom of expression for everyone there to have the concert in their own way,” he says. “No two stories are the same. Everyone is going through life in their own way, but we're all part of this larger human story. And we have that commonality, and that's what the music is opening up for people.”

Each MindTravel concert is improvised and unique to that moment, so people tend to return over and over again because each time provides a different meditative journey. For those who are skeptical about mediation, Hidary shares that it can take time to let yourself feel completely immersed in the music. “Early on in my own meditation journey, I had a very challenging time myself, sitting with quiet meditation as so many people do, and that's why they abandon their meditation practice. But what's so wonderful here is that music holds the space,” he adds. “It's like we're all on the train and we are all going to get to the destination if we stay on the train. It's my job to be the conductor and just make sure the train gets to the destination.” 

Most people come to MindTravel through word of mouth. After attending one concert, the usual response is, "I had no idea, but this was exactly what I needed."