Heather Stegmaier, M.AmSAT

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Entries in music (2)


Working With Performers

Today I had the privilege of working with young musicians and actors in the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut. Associate Professor of Flute Dionne Jackson invited me to give a masterclass for her students and students in the music and drama program. I worked with six performers for 15 minutes each while an audience of their peers looked on, and even in that short amount of time big changes were happening! The students shed layers of tension which allowed them to breathe better, connect with themselves, and perform with more ease. The Alexander Technique is vital to a performing arts education—I was so grateful to have the opportunity to work with this talented group of students.


Working with Young Musicians

I had the opportunity to work with several piano students recently. Their piano teacher invited me to come during their regularly scheduled lesson time to work with them on such things as sitting more poised at the piano, freeing tension in the wrists, and incorporating body awareness to improve their playing. Their teacher recognized the importance of teaching these skills at a young age (middle and high school) so that they may continue to play the piano pain- and injury-free for many years to come. 

Many young musicians suffer from excess tension in the neck, shoulders, and wrists. Many also have picked up poor postural habits and may be either totally unaware of how they use their bodies, or hyperaware and self-conscious. This can all lead to chronic pain, exhaustion, and not advancing their skills as a musician. If not addressed, the students will often either give up music when they go to college, or—if they decide to major in music—will inevitably come across repetitive strain injuries or debilitating chronic pain. 

The Alexander Technique is an essential tool for musicians to help prevent injury and improve performance. If learned in middle and high school, the Alexander Technique can really improve  the musical life of a student.

 The students I worked with were excited to learn how to use their bodies in a more efficient way when playing the piano. We worked on such elements as how to sit with poise by lengthening the spine and knowing where your sit bones meet the chair. By becoming more aware of their entire self, they can recognize that how they use their body can really help their piano playing. Musicians tend to get really focused and “zoomed in” to both the music and their fingers on the keys. By bringing awareness to their entire self, the students transformed into poised pianists who were able to move more easily and with less effort. One student, who sat with her spine curved in a “C” shape, commented that by lengthening the spine and sitting more upright she felt much more comfortable! 

Their teacher also saw the difference over the course of each lesson. She said, “I invited Heather to work with some of my piano students on a one-on-one basis and watched as relaxed breathing, ease, and beautiful, stress-free postures emerged from my students’ bodies.  It is such a joy to see students overcome struggles and be able to create more beautiful sounds at the piano.” 

By teaching young musicians how to use their bodies efficiently as they continue their musical studies, they will be equipped with knowledge that will not only improve their technicality and musicianship, but help them to prevent injury and burn out. The Alexander Technique is an invaluable tool that can really make a difference in the life of a young musician. I know this from my own experience, and I am so happy I can pass on my knowledge to the next generation of musicians. 

I’d love to hear from you! What is your experience as a musician with pain and tension? Are you a music teacher who struggles to address these issues with their students? Please leave a comment below.