A trip to New York Jeff Scott, the horn player from the renowned and dynamic American wind quintet Imani Winds, asked me whether I’d like to go over and work with woodwind students on their summer festival at Mannes School of Music in New York. So after an online meeting with Jeff and colleagues, and lots of creative thinking between us all, I flew over to New York for a few days in early June.
Working with those students was wonderful. They were incredibly open to what I had to offer, not least because Jeff and the other members of the Imani quintet, had told the students right at the beginning of the course, that it was a ‘safe space.’ How fantastic! That this approach of allowing students to feel safe and supported so they can grow and develop as musicians without the fear of being bullied by old school ways of teaching is music to my ears.
Tension, aches and pains I gave my two talks – Manage your Performance Nerves and Tension, aches and pains; why musicians should pay attention – and the students were open, animated and completely supportive of each other, cheering loudly when they could see the progress being made in the master class after the talk. It was particularly interesting for me to work with students who had obvious pain and discomfort when they played, to show them that they needed to increase their body awareness and free up physically. There is so much denial amongst musicians about aches and pains. These can result from an incorrect technique, a fear and anxiety about performing that results in a physical ‘armouring’ or simply, a lack of physical, general body awareness that they need to be free when playing their instrument.
This is an area that I have been working in for a couple of decades, but despite having taken body work courses of all sorts for over fifteen years, (along with students and professionals still flocking to have sessions to sort out their tendonitis issues and more), the fact that I’m not medical or haven’t been trained as a physio, has meant that I haven’t been yet been taken seriously by the wider musical world. I hope this changes because overall I feel that musicians need more general body awareness and they need this in a way that connects to the world they know, which is playing music. Taking up Yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais or other similar physical activities is a positive step, but it needs to relate to the instrument and the person playing that instrument to be really transformational.