In many schools, conservatories, and professional settings, patience with injured or troubled musicians is relatively short. In this very competitive profession where jobs are few, musicians who are perceived as having problems risk losing their positions. Therefore, many musicians keep silent when they experience difficulty and tend to be secretive about their problems. Many also find it difficult to find appropriate and effective help. Making music can be surprisingly cruel to the body, the mind, and the emotional life of the musician. Music offers cathartic satisfaction that few other human occupations can match, but for many it exacts a heavy price in the form of chronic afflictions of acute tendonitis, repetitive motion injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and perhaps most worrisome of all, the debilitating burdens of mental stress, stage fright, and the unrelenting pressures to excel.
An Alexander Technique student learns to identify the habits of thought and movement that create strain (which F.M. Alexander called the “misuse of the self”). The student learns to reorganize himself by freeing his head and neck and by lengthening and widening his back, allowing the entire organism to function with greater ease. Everyday habits are magnified many times over in performance, therefore it is important for the student to learn how to “re-think in the moment” over a wide range of activities, minimizing needless tensions and restoring energy in daily life as well as in performance.
Good use of the self is characterized by an overall pattern of economy and freedom of movement. It means, for example, using no more and no less tension than necessary for a bow stroke or a chord at the piano, or having the time to breathe with the phrase. The Alexander Technique develops skills that prevent useless habits and self-defeating ideas, all the while awakening the student to his remarkable capacity for change and growth.