- Self-employed Feldenkrais practitioner since 2000, with international courses, advanced training, workshops and individual treatment
- Regular guest courses “Feldenkrais for Singers” at the Voice Department of the Mozarteum University Salzburg since 2006
- Lecturer at the Mozarteum University Salzburg since 2008, offering the course “Feldenkrais for Musicians” within the special course programme since 2011
- Feldenkrais coaching for participants and judges of the International Mozart Competition Salzburg for string quartet and voice (2014)
- Feldenkrais coaching for participants and judges of the International Mozart Competition Salzburg for piano and violin (2016)
- Feldenkrais support for choir and orchestra projects
Specialisation: Feldenkrais for Musicians
As a specialist with many years of experience in the area of Feldenkrais work with musicians, I am able to offer very precise and qualified support for instrumentalists and singers. I have been interested in the connection between music, posture and movement ever since my degree in Music and Dance Pedagogy. It was in 1995, in the course of these studies, that I first came into contact with the Feldenkrais method and I wrote my diploma thesis on the method as part of this degree. Thereafter I studied to become a certified Feldenkrais practitioner. I was fortunate to be trained by Mia Segal, the very first student and longest serving assistant of Moshé Feldenkrais.
Research into the application of the method to the particular needs of musicians provided the subject of my subsequent master's thesis (Die Feldenkrais-Methode für Musiker/The Feldenkrais Method for Musicians). Continuation of this research has remained the central concern of my work over the last 15 years as a Feldenkrais practitioner.
During this time I have gathered a great deal of experience, both at home and internationally, in the provision of vocational education for music teachers, while also holding courses, workshops and one-to-one sessions for instrumentalists and singers. Underpinned by my own practice as a musician (piano, organ, flute, voice) and dancer, and thus an understanding of the demands of technique and performance as well as personal authenticity, I have developed and refined distinct, specialised approaches for both instrumentalists and singers.
A fundamental insight I seek to convey is that in addition to the musical instrument, the body itself can (and indeed must) be tuned in order to realise its full potential; I also stress how much is made possible when musicians are as familiar with their body as an instrument as they are with their musical instrument or vocal apparatus. A central objective of my work, therefore, is for each student to physically experience the extent to which our posture and the movement coordination of our entire body – and our awareness of it – affect the quality of our music-making and our stage presence. The effects can be clearly seen and heard in performance.
Statements from Musicians:
Violinist, Brentano String Quartet
Like everybody, I’ve used my body throughout my life for all sorts of things. This includes activities which I never quite realised I was doing in any particular way, such as in sitting, or breathing. Shortly before I started studying Feldenkrais, I was using it to practise yoga. I was using my body in such a way that I kept on asking my shoulder to perform a movement by itself – without the help of other parts of me. It finally let me know that this was an unacceptable burden to bear, and tore. I saw the tear on an MRI and was told it would be there forever unless I had surgery to repair it, but that I might not necessarily have to have the surgery if I could learn to live with it.
Well, I’m a violinist and have been for almost as long as I can remember, and that particular shoulder spends a good deal of time just underneath a violin. It occurred to me that it might not be a coincidence that it was the left shoulder that chose to rebel, even though I had been doing a symmetrical yoga pose when it gave up on me. Maybe I had done something to incline it towards injury. In any case, although I wasn’t living with a lot of pain in general (except for that injury), neither did I really feel at ease in my own body. I thought that maybe it was time, having quite a significant number of years behind me, to examine how I use my body.
Basically, I was hoping to get rid of the pain in my shoulder. I did. Not all at once, and not necessarily without setbacks, but I have had no pain there for years now, even though the tear is certainly still there, unhealed and unchanged. Learning to use the shoulder correctly, with support from the rest of my body and with awareness of what was actually happening there, solved that problem for me.
What I never expected was the way Feldenkrais would come to be such an important part of my life. It is something that has shaped how I feel about myself, how I approach playing, how I go about learning, and even how I approach other people. I hadn’t started out with the idea to improve my playing, just with the hope to escape pain. But I have had astonishing revelations in terms of playing the violin. Many discoveries have been in areas that never, ever came up in discussions in all of my very thorough and excellent training. I would never have guessed that what happens with my feet could have such an immediate, liberating effect on my playing. Or my eyes. Or my ribs or pelvis. I realised I didn’t even have a clear idea of how my arm was attached to the rest of my body, and that once I did I played differently, with more ease, more freedom and more sense of possibility.
Learning through patience and attentiveness, and always with comfort and positive feeling, has been a revelation for me. My daily practice is informed by the inspiration I’ve gained from Feldenkrais lessons and sessions. I am more curious about connections throughout my body, more insistent on a high quality of motion and comfort, more truly patient and curious. Practising has become more productive, and more joyful. So many Feldenkrais lessons are based on the way babies discover how to move, and I feel that some of this youthful spirit of discovery has become an integral and welcome part of the work I do, both alone and in rehearsing and teaching. Sometimes I get down on the floor and do movements from Feldenkrais lessons in the midst of practising, and sometimes I get my students to do the same. I recognise the look in their eyes when they get up and take the violin again: surprise mixed with delight mixed with understanding.
The way the mind becomes though this work – more flexible and less adhered to habit – affords all Feldenkrais students more joy and capacity for growth. I find one of the great challenges of advancing through the decades to be the trap of holding on more and more tightly to one’s own habits and beliefs and proclivities, leaving less and less room for true artistry, as a musician or as a human being. Feldenkrais addresses this and give us tools and attitudes that keep us malleable in body and in mind.
I never would have guessed I would be so grateful for an injury. But indeed I am. My life would be far poorer had my shoulder not woken me up.
Feldenkrais and Violin
Muscular pain, stiffness and tiredness are a part of every professional instrumentalist’s life. Some are aware of their problems and take care of them. Others don’t – until it is too late. I have always been aware of my own shortcomings concerning the use/misuse of my body as a working tool, but never chosen to prioritise this issue until now. There was no direct breaking point or dramatic injury that brought me into contact with Feldenkrais. My mother, who knows a Feldenkrais practitioner in Stockholm, told me that it would help me with my violin playing if I could learn how to optimise my movements more through Feldenkrais.
I have played the violin for many hours over many years, and I have received a lot of tuition and advice about how to do so in the “best possible way”. The different violin schools have different methods: some say the violin should be placed far out to the left side, others that it should be centred. Obviously there is no right and wrong concerning this or any other aspect. Playing the violin is a fine art in the end and hence there are no hard-and-fast rules about how it should be done. Some people manage to do it well and pass all the obstacles until they reach the final destination of becoming a professional instrumentalist. Others don’t. The physical and emotional price for musicianship is often high and the salary, in most cases, low. Nevertheless, this is what I and my colleagues dream of doing and we are most certainly determined to succeed.
My biggest discovery since I began my Feldenkrais studies has been to realise how the violin itself plays a tiny role in the actual playing of the violin. Good technique and sound production is achieved through good movement patterns with the violin, not against it or on top of it. Practising the violin should not be the eternal quest to “master the instrument”, but should involve “practising yourself” at the same time. There is a big difference. I sometimes get very tired in my right shoulder, especially after long orchestra rehearsals, but before I began with Feldenkrais I had never actively tried to practise myself to prevent that. Doing exercises in how to feel the weight of my arms and the support of my shoulder joints really makes me appreciate how much I limit myself and my body when I play the violin. After doing 5 minutes of Feldenkrais I feel much more connected with my instrument and I am immediately rewarded with a much “fatter” sound. Constantly activating these movement patterns is what really makes a difference for me as a violinist at this point. I will most certainly continue to take Feldenkrais lessons and to do the exercises at home. Because I’m worth it.
Juan Pedro Villegas Bernabe
The experience that I had during the Feldenkrais course have been very enriching. Since a while I had problems of tension, bad posture and even pain when I play the guitar and I was looking for a solution. I decided to take this class due to a violinist friend’s advise who had taken some of this method’s courses years ago, and told me that it had been really helpful for the way she plays her instrument. I didn’t know very much about this method, so I made some research and I found that it was about the treatment with some exercises of the problem that I had, although I couldn’t imagine how was actually a session or a class of this method, I decided to take it. During the first lesson, it was very strange for me the way the class was developed, just feeling and doing apparently natural and daily movements of our body. In that moment that kind of work (just feeling and observation of my own body) wasn’t familiar for me. In the same first lesson, when we began the exercises of the method, I found them even stranger, a lot of repetitions of those movements of the body, at that moment very unusual, always feeling and watching what was happening. After that we came back to do one more time the daily and simple movements, then I realized that the feeling was completely different. I felt that even walking was easier, lighter.
So I started to understand what was the Feldenkrais method about. To generate awareness of our own body, listening, watching, and feeling what happens in it at every moment, and to perform exercises designed to take advantage and optimize to the maximum the work of every part of the body, the muscles and bones involved in every movement, from the simplest and most common to the most complex an finest as playing an instrument.
In my case, I could notice a very big difference with my instrument, before and after having performed the exercises in class and in my daily practice. I could feel how every exercise make of playing an actual teamwork of all the parts of my body, and not only the hands and fingers. Of course that the tension I had has decreased thanks to this optimization and awareness that bring this kind of work, but I think that there is a lot more that the Feldenkrais method can offer, and I´m looking forward to discover it.