WXOU Fall Main Stage headliner to bring music, mindfulness to The Habitat


Photo Courtesy of The Heartstrings Project

From left to right: Luke Wygodny, Marina Pires and Elias Wygodny of The Heartstrings Project.

Folk band The Heartstrings Project has been carving out a meaningful place for themselves in the world through music and mindfulness since 2015. As the headliners of WXOU’s 2021 Fall Main Stage event, they’re ready to introduce themselves, their art and their message to the Oakland University community.

Formed by brothers Luke and Elias Wygodny in 2015, The Heartstrings Project was borne from the former’s passion for songwriting and the latter’s meditational expertise. The resulting safe space where they and other New York artists could all gather to forge community and find and express themselves eventually developed into the band that exists today.

“The intention was to explore what keeps our hearts in tune, and that can be through music, or art, or mindfulness, or […] anything that gave someone an outlet to kind of tune themselves up and also tune into themselves,” Elias Wygodny said. “Then it turned into us writing this music and continuing to write together.”

Inspired by this purpose and eager to introduce such meaningful self-exploration through art into her own life, Broadway actress and fellow singer-songwriter Marina Pires made the group a trio in 2017.

“This was, for me, an incredible, beautiful opportunity to jump into their project and revisit the tuning that they had in mind for myself,” Pires said. “I’m originally from Brazil, and my love of three-part harmony comes from the country music [there]. We started singing in three-part harmony together and it just clicked — I thought, ‘man, I would love to be a part of this collective and sing with these brothers for the rest of my life.’”

The band’s debut album “shadow people” released in 2020, created without any knowledge of how its overarching themes — from facing fear and love in relationships to finding healing through feeling — would resonate so deeply amid the global pandemic.

“‘shadow people’ is that feeling when you’re walking around and you feel almost like you’re a robot and you don’t feel like you’re in control of yourself anymore, you’re just going through the motions,” Luke Wygodny said. “The fact that [the release] happened in 2020 — [the album] has a different meaning to me now than it did when we wrote it a couple years ago.”

Beyond this band, the trio are also expanding their presence in the school system through their educational program Heartstrings Kids. With an album on Spotify and a series of classes both virtual and in-person, the program consists of a “folk-mindfulness kids duo” performing original songs, meditations and more to help engage children within the aforementioned “heart-tuning” process.

“That’s a huge premise behind our programming — using music and mindfulness and movement to help children learn about their emotions, each other, and how to be in the world,” Elias Wygodny said.

Between extending their creative outreach through “shadow people” and Heartstrings Kids, the group has managed to find community even within such lonely times. They’re now eager to see how this sense of unity expands their sound in person, with the time to perform live again finally upon them.

Members of the OU community are invited to take part in this celebration of music and mindfulness on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. when The Heartstrings Project takes the stage in OU’s The Habitat in the basement of the Oakland Center.

“There’s nothing better than being with people in the room and sharing stories in real time, feeling the energy of the space,” Luke Wygodny said. “I think that’s something that people can look forward to — to come hear us play music, but also to all be together in the same space and celebrate music together.”