I remember realizing at some point in my teens that music involved all of me…my mind and hands and heart and ear . Of course, I didn’t originally learn to play the cello because I consciously knew this; I realized it bit by bit and I knew I was lucky to be able to call playing the cello my “work”! It was a realization that I was involved in very big things when playing great music…things that, as a young person, seemed very adult. I realized that music has meaning as deep as any expressed in writing or in numbers and that it was important, intrinsically valuable, to human beings. It has the potential to make us more fully human. And gradually I realized that the act of playing the music was as important as the sound itself…the making of this thing and the thing itself could not be separated. The body of it and the soul of it were one and the same.
Still, I often wasn’t able to practice in a way that really reflected this awareness. I struggled while learning the craft as (almost) everyone does; I hit my head against walls; I fought my habits and built new ones, both good and bad; I was a perfectionist in ways that helped me and in many ways which held me back. On the whole I’m not sure it occurred to me that there was a way to practice…a way to work…. which was more in line with what I was aiming for.
Since my desire to play was very strong, and my love of it and my identification with it was powerful I made good progress. I gradually learned how to practice in more useful ways. And as a graduate student in my last year at Juilliard I was introduced to the Alexander Technique. I studied the technique off and on for a number of years as my professional career began, and then eventually more and more, until I decided to train to be teacher in 1998. I finished my training in 2001 but the learning has continued and, I hope, will continue forever.
Through all these years, and with the help of many different teachers, I have come to see the Alexander Technique as the natural extension of the artist’s path. By raising our awareness of self-created blocks and giving us a means to move past them, the Technique opens the door to continual development, not just for the student but for the seasoned professional. If our goal is to gradually erase the line between the player and the instrument, then the Alexander technique can be the eraser!