My students include musicians, artists, teachers, youngsters, lawyers, bankers, and many more. Read what some of them have to say about their learning experiences.
I just wanted to tell you about a recent experience I had during which I was very grateful to your teaching. A couple of months ago I was rung up by a commercial recording company and asked to make a commercial for Capital Radio - the sound track to an advert for Bang and Olufsen speakers… in 2 or 3 days' time. I understood that it would involve one violin and I would just be required to play "a couple of notes."
When I turned up at the very small studio in Soho, I was taken into the "box" to meet the producer and engineer who explained that the voice-over (which points out that unless you're listening on B&O speakers you can't tell that this is a fine old Italian violin) had three sections to it. I looked around in vain for the music and discovered I was expected to improvise with the red light on! First I had to play a long high note with as much resonance as possible: difficult in a studio the size of a toilet cubicle but without its acoustics. Then I was just asked to play something all over the violin for 19 seconds to fit with the voice-over. The third sound bite was to demonstrate the sound quality of pizzicato, again for 20 to 30 seconds. I had to improvise on the spot and be prepared to do 3 or 4 retakes.
Quite apart from being indignant at their getting away without paying a composer's fee, I felt stretched to say the least. However, it would not have been possible at all without the experience you have put me through improvising to demand. I found that I had to think of the overall structure of the excerpt as well as the meter and exploiting the best sound possible from the instrument. Of course, when improvising it was difficult to make the takes identical, but I believe they got something worth using.
I thought of you afterwards, and wanted to say "thank you" for teaching me to think on my feet, being aware of musical as well as physical direction.
From Rachyl Duffy (17), violist, Philadelphia
I have been practicing your tips every day, and they are making a world of difference. My playing just feels so much freer, easier, and more comfortable! I look forward to the next day that a lesson can work out. And you can quote me on that for anything you'd like, by the way!
I'm writing in order to recount a little story to add to your huge garden of stories about the benefits of the Technique. Today, as I was coming out of the Bibliothèque Nationale, I was putting something into my bag while walking down the corridor, not looking where I was going. (BIG mistake.) As you say, "there are risks and dangers in every situation without exception," and the dangerous risk in this situation instantly manifested itself, as I suddenly found myself on top of three stairs, one leg in the air, the mighty power of inertia pushing me unstoppably forwards. A week ago I would have probably panicked, and possibly stumbled or fallen down those stairs.
Today, I panicked for the briefest of milliseconds, but managed to actually react by running down the three stairs, rather more swiftly than I would have liked to, but in one piece, and erect at the end... Many thanks for this outcome - it would have been a lot more difficult to get home today and go to Israel tomorrow with a sprained ankle, or broken leg/arm/head etc.
Thanks, again, for a wonderfully creative week.
From Cristina Necula, master class coordinator, Conservatory of Music, State University of New York, College at Purchase (US)
I am glad you enjoyed your time at Purchase. So did everyone who attended your master class. They said you are one of the most eloquent speakers they have ever heard. The students learned a lot from you. Thanks for doing it.
Take care and keep in touch,
From Jean-Jacques Herbin, trombonist (France)
Votre "ce n'est pas parce qu'on a perdu l'équilibre un moment, qu'il faut continuer de tomber" est vital. Au-delà de toute idéologie, "mens sana in corpore sano" peut se lire: un corps sain produit ou génère une âme saine; en négligeant son corps, on perd son bon ego… Je vérifie à chaque instant le bien fondé d'Alexander; une pratique de certains exercices de réeducation et re-musculation des lèvres commence à faire son effet. Le plaisir revient et les affaires aussi, mais sans en être esclave.
A bientôt j'espère,
From N. Brooke Lieb, consultant and Alexander teacher (US)
I had great fun at the teacher workshop. I really enjoy how you conceptualize things. Your thoughtfulness is inspiring, and provokes me (in the best sense of the word) to be able to quantify what I tend to quality-fy in my teaching. See, you have me playing with language now and everything!
N. Brooke Lieb
From Laurel Anderson, pianist and Alexander teacher (Switzerland)
I wanted to tell you that I just finished a lesson with that student of mine you taught at the workshop. She told me that the night after her lesson with you, she had a very strange experience with bizarre dreams, during which she felt that she had to really work with her head directed up and the jaw going forward, and that the next morning she felt wonderful. She was actually able to direct in a half dream/waking state. Seems that your work may have gone much deeper than you imagined. As her teacher, I thank you on her behalf.
Keep spinning those plates!
From Professor Mimi Zweig, Indiana University at Bloomington (US)
Thank you for a wonderful series of days here. My students were all enthusiastic in remembering your words of wisdom and then trying to apply them. We are all better for your being here.
Stay in touch!
From Lucinda Clutterbuck, artist (Australia)
I have just finished reading your second book, and I enjoyed our lesson with you so much I thought I would let you know how it went afterwards.
I went ice skating when we came home half expecting to be very unfit and hopeless after five weeks away. Instead I found I could at last lead with my head which meant I was much better at the turns and stops. At one stage when I was going very fast I started to fall, I knew I was going to fall and I seemed to have time to slide into a grace full fall which didn't hurt me at all. I was so pleased but I thought it could have been coincidence so I got up and threw myself onto the ice twice more. I have now mastered the "fall" all the little kids learn but I have always been too scared to try.
I greatly appreciated your lesson and I hope to one day have another with you.
From Wendy Williams, flutist, Minnesota Symphony Orchestra
I just wanted you to know how helpful my lesson with you in Minneapolis has been. The imprinting and reorganization of my hands and arms has resulted in more strength and comfort throughout my activities, whether playing or lifting my daughter. Your ideas have remained with me, and I look forward to reading your book at a more quiet moment in my future. I also hope you will return to teach here in the area. If so, I will certainly wholeheartedly recommend your work to my friends and colleagues in the area.
With good wishes,
From Rebecca Tuffey, Alexander trainee at the American Center for the Alexander Technique
In February 2003, I found myself presented with an opportunity to dive into inhibition. Seem ironic? Isn't inhibition all about staying back? In the lesson I took with Pedro de Alcantara while he was visiting New York, I discovered that in order to make the choice to stay back, I had to first engage with what was in front of me! Pedro specializes in exciting his students into the present moment by using provocative words and activities and by applying resistance and opposing forces with his hands. His great teaching is that the best divers allow their heads to lead forward and up and their backs to follow back and up as they make their way into the water.
I liked Pedro's synthesis of fun and learning. It feels to me like life. I also liked Pedro’s unceasing reminder: “Don’t worry, keep thinking your directions, don’t worry, keep thinking your directions...” Maybe this is why I enjoy the Alexander Technique so much. It equips me with the awareness, inhibition, and direction that I need to participate fully with life. To plunge head first and to stay back simultaneously – that strikes me as Alexander's great discovery.
From Taylor Strand, flutist (age 13)
Thanks for the lesson! I really had fun and learned a lot. Your teaching made a big difference. Now I can remember stuff and my mom does not get mad. (Just kidding!) Thanks again and I am looking forward to another lesson with you. Are you coming to MN next year?
From Dr. Tanya L. Carey, American String Teachers’ Association
Your presence last week-end [at ASTA’s conference in Michigan, 2002] really made a difference. I personally enjoyed finally seeing you in action after enjoying your book so much. Your Alexander/Alcantara presentation took a subjective internal topic and made it very accessible for the large audience—quite a trick! Thank you for being a part of the ASTA National Studio Teachers Forum. Your presentation was much enjoyed by all who attended. The success of the conference and positive comments on the evaluations were due to the commitment and quality of your work and the other presenters. I hope we have a chance to work together in the future. All best wishes for your summer¹s work.
Tanya L. Carey, Chair
ASTA with NSOA
Committee on Studio Instruction
From William Barto Jones, opera coach and pianist, New York City Opera
I have been meaning to write you to let you know how much I got from the lessons with you. Thanks for using so many varied ways of working. This will encourage me to be more creative in teaching and working. I have been reading your book "A Skill for Life," and am finding it fun, interesting, and useful. I can see how your writing has been influenced by the Technique. There is such clarity in the thinking and wording. You pack a lot into not so many pages, but the writing flows.
So many thoughts about life are coming up from this work, and especially recently. The seemingly endless possible benefits from the Alexander Technique are amazing me and making me look forward.