Workshop Descriptions

Opening session

Friday 15th

6:30 - 7:30pm

Why Can’t I Hear?:  Hearing Loss and Alexander Technique

Dr. Christine Isley-Farmer 

Hearing loss is an all-too common, rarely addressed problem amongst musicians. Total or partial deafness for a musician can mean the end of a performing/teaching career and requires that adjustments be made in strategies and techniques. As a teacher/singer, Dr. Christine Isley-Farmer's diagnosis of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL) posed the possibility of such life and career-altering ramifications.This presentation shares how Dr. Isley-Farmer utilized daily Alexander Technique Constructive Rest (CR) and walking meditation to partner with her treatment and help her regain her hearing. She will identify the anatomy of hearing, the different types of hearing loss, prevention, and treatment options and present coping strategies to be used in work and performance environments. She will demonstrate how the relationship between hearing and the brain is impacted by our Primary Control and share how she incorporates breathing movements based on yoga, Whispered “Ah,” and Gay Hendricks’ book, Conscious Breathing into her daily Constructive Rest practice.


SESSION 1

Saturday 16th

9:15 - 10:45 am

AGetting Off the Hamster Wheel of Performance Anxiety

Robyn Dixon Costa, Erin Huang and Katherine Palumbo 

Feelings are feedback. When we are anxious, it is not something to ignore, fix or push through, it is our body giving us valuable information. When we perform, or even think about performing, the inner world of our being is interpreted by our brain, which, in turn, triggers changes in our body. This workshop will explore the psycho-physical experience of performance anxiety and offer useful tools to redirect our anxiety into useful energy. Our workshop will address:

  • Managing Performance Anxiety
  • Audition Strategies
  • Healthy Practice Habits
  • Stage Presence
  • Strategies for Self-Care
BThe Paradox of Feeling Music Without Feeling Tension piano

Heather Campbell 

Pianists seldom recognize that it is their emotional connection and response to music that contribute to their technical problems or physical pain, which limits them from reaching their full musical potential. In their efforts to play well, pianists habitually impose a degree of tension that feels necessary for control of the instrument and because they unconsciously believe that they can only “feel” music by feeling tension in their bodies. Instead of expanding, their bodies contract, negatively affecting the tone produced, the fluidity of the music, and their listening skills: musicianship becomes an imposed, rather than an allowed process. Heather Campbell will provide participants with opportunities to explore playing the piano while inhibiting the desire to feel the music by feeling tension in their bodies. Participants will be encouraged to sense the critical relationship between the flow of Alexander Technique directions and the flow of music they are creating, as a means of staying emotionally connected to the music without creating unnecessary tension in the neck, shoulders, arms, and lower back. Some participants may experience a new form of active listening when they inhibit the desire to “get the notes right,” and allow the feedback from the music they are producing to nurture their responsiveness to it through means other than physical tension. When achieving a degree of balance and flow, musicians often report a transcendent experience of “watching themselves play” or feeling that the music is playing “through them” or “playing itself.”

CVibrations In Body, Space and Time: Warming Up the Voice for Practice and Performance voice

Heather Gardner and Jessica Goldring 

At its most basic level a warm-up transitions us from one activity to another, in this case from whatever activity we are doing (teaching, driving, working) to singing. As we stand at the threshold between one activity and another, we can learn to hold the possibility for sound and vibration in our awareness. Being aware of this liminal moment can help us to cross new boundaries of perception and prepare us for discovering new skills while being available to the unexpected..Tools like visualization, body mapping, inhibition/direction and meditation can help us to tap into our flow before we even begin to sing. This workshop will examine the processes that singers often use when warming up and present an alternative, whole mind-body approach based on the principles of the Alexander Technique. We will practice the transition to singing with guided activities that focus on mapping the inner space of the body, sensing our body in the space around us, and experiencing flow in time. Through this process, participants will expand their choices for how they warm up and discover a sense of flow that underlies all activities, making the transition into singing easier.


SESSION 2

Saturday 16th

11 am - 12:30 pm

AHow to Talk with Musicians about the Alexander Technique

Ayu Wang 

Musicians often only care about their music and need to be introduced to the Alexander Technique in a manner that encourages them to explore what the Technique has to offer. We will talk about how to frame the Alexander Technique to suit the needs of the musician. This is especially important introducing the Technique to musicians who have no prior experience with the Technique. You will have the opportunity to practice introducing the Alexander Technique to others using role play. I present some of the difficulties I have faced introducing the Technique in Shanghai.

BPiano warm-ups and Repertoire Choreography piano

Debi Adams 

We will explore simple movement patterns that are specific to piano playing. We are in constant motion at the piano, sometimes laterally and sometimes contra-laterally. Spending just a few minutes awakening an awareness of these relationships can lead to increased freedom at the instrument. Following these warm-ups, we will consider the repertoire we currently play and what movements are involved in that repertoire so that we can both include similar movements in our warm-ups as well as include opposite movements in order to keep us in tensegritive balance. Feel free to submit current repertoire in advance of this workshop to dadams@berklee.edu so Debi can prepare individual warm-ups.

CThe Voice Lesson piano

Audrey Luna 

Our physical response to learning “vocal technique”, the demands of the repertoire, the wish to please, do the right thing, and assigning value to what we are doing often create impediments to free singing . This workshop will essentially be a long voice lesson, so everyone will sing! A calm nervous system, non-judgement, balance, patience and kindness during a voice lesson as well as the use of inhibition will be our tools. We will vocalize to bring awareness to our physical and emotional response to high notes, long phrases, coloratura, dynamics and range. We will then experiment with exercises to promote a more natural coordination, involving breathing, whispered ah, and singing as we lie down, sit, and stand. This workshop is designed primarily for singers, teachers of singing and AT teachers of singers.


SESSION 3

Saturday 16th

1:45 - 3:15 pm

AFinding Freedom through Imagination

James Blumer and Shawn Copeland

As performers, we often lose the sense of fun and play that once brought us to the expression of our art, forgetting that we once inherently knew how to move with ease and fluidity. Perhaps, this loss is due to a culture of scarcity within our field, which promotes end-gaining. This fundamental hyperawareness of lack produces a “do more with less” culture: pushing us beyond our limits. Current research in cognitive science (the work of Gabriele Wulf) demonstrates that by applying an external focus in skilled activities (i.e., directed at the effects that his or her movement has on the environment) we produce greater accuracy and enhanced efficiency of movement. In this session, Blumer and Copeland will show that imagination can organize intention around the expression of music: an external focus which may guide movement with greater efficiency and fluidity. When we stop internally directing the parts and place intention on the external expression of our imagination, we give ourselves permission to move in new and creative ways. Using a variety of partnering and group activities, this movement-based workshop will explore how imagination can organize intention in a way that reminds us of something we all once knew: we can move beautifully. Additionally, we will explore how ideas of “doing it right” are barriers to unlocking potential and releasing creativity.

BA Duet of Piano Pedagogy and Alexander Technique: Cultivating Awareness in Junior Piano Students piano

Gabriella Minnes Brandes and Jennifer Condie 

In this presentation we will share insights from a research project that was designed to investigate the collaboration between and Alexander teacher and a piano teacher through the application of Alexander Technique principles to junior pianists, using ‘off the bench activities’ which include the use of an adjustable surface away from the piano. The work ‘off the bench’ then moved into playing the piano. The presenters Gaby, an Alexander teacher, and Jennifer, a piano teacher who has been taking Alexander lessons with Gaby, collaborated in designing this project, whereby they wanted to investigate ways of incorporating Alexander Technique principles into piano lessons to cultivate students’ growing awareness of how they learn to play the piano . We will share our insights and findings from one case study, as we discuss the possibilities and challenges of collaboration between Alexander teachers and piano teachers, as each seeks to enhance piano students’ experiences learning to play the piano. We will then open the discussion and invite participants in the workshop to share their own experiences of collaboration between piano teachers and Alexander teachers.

CThe Whole Performer: An Alexander Approach to Common Challenges for Singers voice

Eleanor Taylor 

The Alexander Technique is uniquely positioned to help singers with their most common concerns that impede radiant performance: jaw tension, breath issues, using excessive physical effort, not feeling grounded, and being ”in your head” while singing. AT was created by a professional actor who needed to solve a voice problem in performance: F.M. Alexander healed himself from habitual tensions that were derailing his theatrical career more than a century ago, and taught his technique to others looking for the same results. In this experiential workshop, we’ll look at each of those common issues for singers, and match them with AT practices that can help. Find balanced ease in your whole body and breath, and learn simple, practical tools to redirect habits that keep you from showing your fullest potential in auditions and performances. All participants will have the opportunity to practice the tools in the group. For the second half of the workshop, singers may bring a brief memorized audition piece if they’d like to volunteer to work in front of the group and receive hands-on guidance in applying these ideas to performance. This workshop is for singers at any point in their training or career, and AT practitioners or other teachers interested in exploring ways to apply AT tools to common performance pitfalls.


Session 4

Saturday 16th

3:30 - 5:30 pm

AInhibition and Musical Success

Abigail Albaugh 

The process of improving as a musician is one that often has us only desiring our end goal in the shortest amount of time, causing injury, fatigue, and frustration. But what if we could make the process of achieving our goals more efficient, healthy, accurate, and fun? In this presentation we will focus on applying the process of inhibition to playing all instruments and singing. We will explore various ways of stopping bad habits associated with beginning to sing or getting ready to play an instrument, including using the arms, bringing up an instrument, and using the head and vocal mechanisms. Activities without playing or singing, including “Air-playing” and the “Listening Lie-down,” will demonstrate how to address excess tension and inefficient movements, making it easier to notice these factors while practicing and performing. We will also address ways of avoiding habit “traps” during the act of making music, such as learning how to consciously control negative thoughts before they affect what we are trying to accomplish. Inhibition will also be applied to handling stage fright, as we will explore ways to work with our fear response, redirect our thinking, and regain a healthy focus. Tools will be provided to all musicians, music teachers, and Alexander Technique teachers and trainees to help guide themselves and others (as applicable) to achieve greater musical success through the gift of inhibition.

BWhole-Body Breathing voice

Michael Hanko 

This presentation includes 1) a workshop period, in which I will demonstrate and teach my Whole-Body Breathing (WBB) procedure to all participants and 2) a master class during which I will work with singers individually in applying the procedure to musical excerpts. WBB is an easily learned movement pattern that syncs up the entire body with primary and secondary curve gestures that support both inhalation and exhalation/vocalization. I have found the benefits to be numerous and unexpectedly powerful:

  • Natural, reflexive breathing is easily elicited. Students often experience a spontaneous filling of their lungs without inhaling the first time they practice this procedure.
  • Vocal ease, stability, and power are enhanced indirectly.
  • Musical phrasing becomes clear and effective for the music sung.
  • Posture/coordination/use are instantaneously improved without effort.
  • The movements make conscious and unconscious strategies of breathing/singing visible so they can be easily identified and changed as desired. This access to students’ thinking is for me an exciting and invaluable asset of WBB.

SESSION 5   

Sunday 17th

9:30 - 11:15 am

AExploring Flow in Performance: Taking Your Deep Alexander Practice to the Stage

Jay Foote 

There are many states of flow. We will discuss our conceptions of flow.

Flow is a state of being immersed in an activity, fully, without distraction.

In this workshop we will explore how the Alexander Technique can facilitate easy access to flow rooted in our experience of balance, ease and poise.

BPiano Master Class piano

Heidi Brende Leathwood  

Musicians face a myriad of challenges. Although one might describe some of these challenges as more mental than physical, and some more physical than mental, an essential part of our work as players and teachers is to effect change from the standpoint of psycho-physical unity. How can you change your thinking with regard to physical challenges, and how can you change what you are doing physically in reaction to a mental challenge? If you have pain, how do you react both mentally and physically to that situation? How are “nerves”, breathing, and freedom of arms hands and fingers intertwined? What do you do physically when you have the idea something is difficult? Drawing upon three decades of experience applying AT principles in her own piano practice and performance, as well as her experience as a senior teacher of the Alexander Technique and a long-time piano teacher, Dr. Leathwood will work with each performer on an individual basis, using verbal and hands-on guidance to help them make changes. Many of the topics addressed will be applicable to all musicians.


SESSION 6   

Sunday 17th

11:00 - 12:30 pm

ABring Your Music - Master Class

Ann Rodiger 

Bring yourself and your instrument: voice, violin, piano etc. to this Master Class. Ten participants will have time to perform and receive hands-on work while playing. We can all learn through observing as people transform and change while making music.

BThe Impulse for Voice and Song voice

Jean McClelland 

The great singer and artist Olga Averino was my principal voice teacher. The gift she gave me and the generations of singers she taught was the understanding of impulse. Impulse, a vital force present in every living thing, is the connecting power between body and mind brought about by the coordination between our muscles of postural support and our respiratory muscles. When we sing “on impulse” we become energized and focused and our voices ring with authenticity and nuance. In our class we will explore ways to bring this exquisite connection to consciousness and work with it. Group singing of folk songs and spirituals will inspire joyful, rhythmic and expressive singing. This workshop is open to all.


SESSION 7   

Sunday 17th

1:00 - 3:30 pm

ABring Your Music - Master Class

Ariel Weiss 

Bring yourself and your instrument: voice, violin, piano etc. to this Master Class. Ten participants will have time to perform and receive hands-on work while playing. We can all learn through observing as people transform and change while making music.

BPiano Technique: The Big Picture piano

Tim Pyper 

When playing the piano (or organ), it is vital to keep our whole selves in view while attending to the subtlest details of the score. Using principles of the Alexander Technique as well as the Lister-Sink method of piano pedagogy, Tim Pyper will guide participants through a series of exercises working from larger patterns of movement to the more contained requirements of keyboard playing. The majority of the workshop will be conducted away from the piano; this temporarily removes the stimulus of the instrument as we begin to identify the vital kinesthetic sensations associated with refined piano playing. In the second half of the workshop, we will begin the process of integrating our newly-learned principles to the piano.