What Can We Learn From This Musical Adventurer? Come SEE!

Alexander Technique violin

Jasmine Reese, dog Fiji, and Violin!

A couple years ago, this adventurous musician captured my imagination on Facebook!

You can watch us work together this Saturday, May 20, from 5:30-6:30 EDT.
<< Click here to register for FREE >> 

Jasmine Reese, her dog Fiji, and her violin have been travelling across the country for the last couple of years, practicing in all kinds of places, meeting new people, learning from musicians happy to share their expertise with her…and thoroughly enjoying her life and her FREEDOM!

Now, she’s planning a trip (with her dog and her violin, of course) all over the world. What’s not to love about this story?!

The problem is…. It turns out that constant biking and playing the violin don’t always mix so easily…

Alexander Technique violin

When Jasmine contacted me from Indianapolis a few weeks ago and inquired whether I could help her with some pain she’s been experiencing from her biking, which is now extending to her violin playing, I was very happy to arrange to work with her as soon as possible.

As you’ll see, not only is Jasmine an adventurous, free spirit filling the world with her music, but she has some wonderfully innovative ideas for how to connect with other musicians like myself, and we’d like to share what we’re learning with YOU.

After brainstorming together on the phone, we decided that she would come to see me in Cincinnati this weekend, and together we would video a session or two of my teaching her how to start freeing herself from her discomfort with her violin, The Art of Freedom, and the Alexander Technique.

THE BEST PART: you can JOIN US – for FREE!

You are invited to watch us learn together during a LIVESTREAM video session. Registration is limited, so make sure to sign up here ASAP to reserve your spot:

FREE LIVESTREAM MASTERCLASS

with JASMINE AND JENNIFER

Saturday, MAY 20, 5:30-6:30 EDT

(Sorry, Fiji the dog won’t be there this time…)

<< CLICK HERE – REGISTER FOR FREE!! >>

We’re as curious as you are to see what emerges…
so we hope to see you online! If you’re a musician, you’ll probably pick up some good ideas you can use for yourself to help prevent pain and bring more ease into your music-making.

p.s. There’s a SURPRISE FREE GIFT FROM ME waiting
for everybody who attends the masterclass – don’t miss it!  🙂

 

Exploring My Resistance to Practicing

Alexander Technique, violin, violin teacher

The Violin of Life, by Terri Eilermann

In this deeply personal post, I’m sharing how I’m currently exploring my resistance to practicing, which is a recurring lifelong theme that crops up from time to time to help me grow and move forward as an artist, person, and violinist.

Last week, I spent a great week in Cleveland performing with Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra.

It was an inspiring week, as we performed an all-Beethoven concert on original instruments with the son of my first Alexander Technique teacher (Erik Bendix), Noah Bendix-Balgley, who is now the Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. He performed the Beethoven violin concerto, a piece that has always been very special to me.

As I watched and listened to Noah, I felt a deep heartache stirring within myself made of a strong desire to play that concerto again for myself. I began to look forward to fresh explorations of the piece when I got home, as I saw a world of new potential beckoning me.

But what happened when I returned? LIFE!  Of course.

Life with its thousand and one things to DO on my lists, with my children needing this and that, and work requiring this and that.

In the end, more than a week has passed and I haven’t even touched my violin! Funny thing is…. the more time passes, the less I want to practice… and the more I resist it. Because I could always make a few moments if I really wanted to……right?

But…. yesterday, I stumbled upon an unexpected key to something important at an art fair – the violin pictured above. I didn’t really understand why, but this gorgeous work of art called to me silently and won my heart…. So I brought it home.

There’s something about this discarded and beautified violin that is poking at my soul again, reaching deep inside me through all those thousand and one obligations that seem to have nothing to do with the violin, bringing me back to my origins as a musician….back to my 2-year old self that started out on a “violin” made from half a coconut…..back to something so old that it surely lived inside the hearts of our ancestors…. maybe its music even goes back to the beginning of Time itself….who knows what it is and why it moves me so much.

This violin represents something so raw and deep and essential… it is the perfect symbol for a revival of my musical self on a deeper plane…. and it comes at a turning point in my life, when old things are falling away one by one and I find myself standing in the middle of Rumi’s “field”… “beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing”…. and HERE is where I meet myself.

This violin represents…

Beauty
Secret treasures
Silence
Music
Growth
Life
Renewal
Past, present, and future
Shining
Expression
Soulfulness

…and Infinite Potential.

I will hold this violin in my hands, in my arms, and I will BE with it.

I will wonder about my relationship with violin, music, art, and myself….

In Silence.

This violin’s music is Silence. It can only be played in the imagination, its sound heard only in the mind-heart-self.

Listening to myself and the reverberation of Life between me, violin, and everything else, I listen to what this relationship has to teach me. What does it sound like? What does this musical Silence sound like?

Silence is the origin of Music, and it is found in the Heart of all things….

I will spend some time opening myself up to this…. to a Question that doesn’t require an answer… possibly doesn’t have one, and maybe has many.

I have discovered many times that opening up to life’s Question like this is enough. Asking is enough. And then…. the actions that might arise spontaneously are always the best ones for the moment.

What is best for me right now?

To practice or to not practice?

In fact, I don’t really care about that question….that’s not the question I’m asking….that’s not the question that matters.

I care about the bigger Question.

It’s a wordless Question with a hidden melody…. a Sweet Melody that lives within this beautiful violin and within my heart and within yours.

Remembering this open Question full of Life’s Wonder brings me peace, and I know that this way is my way for now.

And this is enough.

I smile.

 

 

7 Tips for Violinists Who Feel Discomfort While Playing

Question: I feel stiffness and discomfort when I play my violin. What can I do?

I specialize in helping violinists discover more freedom and ease in the mind and body while practicing and performing, thereby reducing or eliminating pain, tension, and anxiety. Here are just a few tips to point you in a more comfortable direction:

1. First, get in the habit of doing 5-20 minutes (the more the better!) of Constructive Rest with my “3 Magic Phrases” before you start practicing. You can download a free guide to learn how to do this from the purple box in the right sidebar.

2. Walking around or letting yourself dance a bit when you play is a fun way to remind yourself that your joints can be free and movable even while you play.

3. Don’t stiffen your legs while you play. No locked knees!

4. I don’t care what your teacher said – make sure your eyes don’t get fixed to one spot as you play – NOTHING should EVER be fixed or stuck in one place!  The point is to be aware as often as possible that you are free and mobile on the inside of you, so that you can learn to be outwardly relatively still, while you are free on the inside.

Your music will easily move your audience
when YOU are movable!

5. Playing an instrument is all about experimenting. There is NO right way to do anything at the violin!! (Or any other instrument, for that matter!) There are ways that are better for you, or less helpful for you. YOU are the one who knows what is best for you. Make the time to really listen to what your body is telling you, and be gentle with yourself.

6. When you’re in discomfort, only do very short bits of practicing at a time (just a few minutes), and take LOTS of breaks.

7. HAVE FUN!!! If you’re not enjoying yourself and you’re uncomfortable, it’s time to take a break and look around at all the beauty and peace in the world around you! There’s more to life than your discomfort, thank God.

These are just a few tips for beginners AND professionals. It doesn’t matter what skill level you are, and it doesn’t matter what your particular circumstances are. We are all human beings who tend to forget about the “being” part; somehow we think we’re human “doings”!

We need to remember to stop and listen to the inner wisdom we carry around within us all the time, which is full of life, breath, and movement at all times.

Learn to “Stop – think – play”,
and the most important of those is “stop”.

I wish you well!! If you’re interested in learning more about The Art of Freedom and the Alexander Technique to help you find a centered, easier way to play, let me know! I currently have openings for online lessons and classes, so it doesn’t matter where you live – I can help. 🙂

Practicing Don Juan with Alexander Technique and My Inner Critic!

I’ve been doing a lot of deep work with myself, my violin, and the Alexander Technique when I practice these days.

I’m discovering anew that making real, fundamental change can be scary, because it means confronting the Unknown and experiencing the feeling out of being control, and meeting aspects of myself I’d rather not look at because I don’t like them!

In this video, I’m giving myself time to experiment with sticking to AT principles while lifting the bow and practicing the opening of Don Juan. Practicing in this way is very confronting, and I find myself face-to-face immediately with my inner critic.

The only way to quiet this critic is, surprisingly, to COMPLETELY IGNORE the fact that I’m playing the violin, and direct my thinking to my Alexander Technique thoughts with vigilance! Not easy to do, this will require a lot of practice, bit by bit, over time.

It’s also scary because it feels like I don’t know how to play the violin anymore, and it sounds terrible to me – even though it’s not so bad when I listen to the recording later.

I will continue on with this self-disciplining practice because I KNOW that I am improving in this way. But what an adventure…self-knowledge and transformation requires COURAGE…it’s not for the faint of heart!!

Thankfully, artists are BRAVE!

And… I have all the time in the world. 🙂

Your comments are welcome, as always.

Alexander Technique violin teacher

Sign up for Jennifer’s next FREE PRACTICE CHALLENGE here:

Jennifer’s EASY 10-Day Practice Challenge
<<  Sign up HERE – even if it’s over!  >>

Stress-Free Practicing #3: Achieving Goals and “End-Gaining”

Alexander Technique musicians

Food for Thought #3: “End-Gaining”

There’s a concept in the Alexander Technique called “End-Gaining”. Simply put, end-gaining is when you’re too attached to the outcome and don’t pay enough attention to the steps required to get there.

We all have goals. Goals are essential to keep us motivated and excited about moving forward.

But caring too much about a goal introduces an element of unnecessary tension, which will actually make achieving your goals HARDER.

It may seem paradoxical, but letting go of your NEED to achieve your goal, while methodically paying attention to the Here-And-Now “means-whereby” – the steps required to arrive at your goal – instead, is THE KEY to doing your best work. It’s the secret to efficient and effective practicing.

Stop caring so much about the future.

Put aside your future desires, and trust that things will work out in whatever way is best for you. NOW is more important, so focus on what is necessary RIGHT NOW. Don’t waste energy on something that doesn’t even exist yet.

What can you do NOW? What is essential? What do you need to pay attention to now? Let’s get our priorities in order, and make the reality of here and now the center of our attention.

One step at a time.

No rush (rushing includes unhelpful tension).

All in good time!

NOTE: 
This content of this post was taken from “Jennifer’s 10-Day Holiday Practice Challenge”. To sign up for my next FREE Practice Challenge, CLICK HERE!

The #1 MISTAKE Musicians Make When They Go Onstage

Can you guess what the #1 MISTAKE is that musicians make onstage?

I think the biggest mistake we make when we walk into the spotlight is TO FORGET WHO WE REALLY ARE. 

We forget that we are not just a performer, or violinist, or musician….

We forget that we are a WHOLE PERSON.
Human, and perfectly imperfect!

A whole person who is having an experience of sharing that Self – through music – with the audience who has come to hear what we have to say.

Who is the performer?

A mind – with thoughts that either help or hinder.
A body – with a head, neck, arms, and feet.
A soul/spirit – with emotions and a heart full of life.
A personality – with a past that has served to bring you here.
A vessel – a channel for the music to express itself.

Each person is unique and brings a lifetime of stories and experience to the stage.

The audience can tell IMMEDIATELY – within the first few seconds – more about us than we might ever wish to be seen!

To be a performer is by definition to be vulnerable and exposed…
To be an ARTIST is to know this and allow this, with whole-Self expression and open-ness.

Alexander Technique Cincinnati musicians
THE KEY TO CONQUERING PERFORMANCE ANXIETY…

…IS TO EXPERIENCE WHO YOU ARE, HAVING THE EXPERIENCE YOU ARE HAVING, IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
.

With total acceptance. Free of judgment…. doing the best we can do.

 A tall order? YES. But perfectly possible to learn…as soon as you remember that performance anxiety includes the body and everything else that you are.

And once you start getting to know and accept – AND LOVE – the mind-body you are living in, you will start to find the kind of peaceful ease within yourself that you want to carry onstage, that gives you a sense of confident calm that can handle ANYTHING that comes your way.

This is not abstract. This is real, and there are concrete and PRACTICAL ways to learn this. I will be teaching you how to aim yourself in this direction in every class of “Effortless Music-Making”, my upcoming course starting this Sunday.

Curious? Check out my YouTube channel and browse around… see some of my practice and performance videos, and see how I do my best to practice what I’m talking about here.

ONE STEP AT A TIME.

 Let me show you the direction!

NOW…. I have a request for you!

Please WRITE A COMMENT HERE and tell me the top 1-3 things YOU would want to learn in my upcoming course. This course is designed to be very interactive and personalized, so I will probably be able to include your concern(s) in the actual course content.

 Of course, you’ll never find out unless you JOIN! Click on the link below for the details. 🙂

With Love in Music-Making,

Jennifer

 

REGISTRATION ENDS SOON!!!

‘EFFORTLESS MUSIC-MAKING’

COURSE DETAILS HERE:

https://aofmusicians.mykajabi.com/p/emmdetails1

What’s an Intelligent Way to Improve a Musical Passage?

In case you missed “Jennifer’s 10-Day EASY Holiday Practice Challenge”, I thought I’d share some of the content from the emails here, including the daily “Food for Thought” ideas. This post is #2 in a series of blogposts highlighting all 10 days!

Alexander Technique musicians


Sign up for upcoming challenges here:  >> 
Jennifer’s Practice Challenges.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #2

What’s an intelligent way to work on improving a musical passage? What do you notice?

– Start with a very clear INTENTION.
– STOP DOING what is unnecessary, to allow for optimal coordination, awareness, and responsiveness to the moment (Alexander Technique teaches this).

 – TRUST the system within you that organizes and coordinates everything you do.
– Let go and PLAY! Observe yourself with detachment as you play, making the whole more important than the parts.
– STOP.
–  THINK about what happened. What did you notice? Where was your attention? What actually happened? Where is the evidence?
– STOP. If you want to do it again, don’t try harder, don’t do the same thing that didn’t work, and don’t work hard at doing it differently, either.
– Instead, do some constructive thinking! THINK to create another clear intention for doing it differently next time.
– REPEAT these steps.

SIMPLIFIED:

– THINK

– STOP

– TRUST

– PLAY

…REPEAT!

***
If your curiosity is piqued by today’s Food for Thought, you’ll want to know about my NEW ONLINE COURSE teaching “Effortless Music-Making!” – an introduction to The Art of Freedom and the Alexander Technique for Musicians:

Click here for details:

YES!  TELL ME MORE ABOUT 
EFFORTLESS MUSIC-MAKING!  >>

p.s. Hurry – registration closes January 12th!

Stress-Free Practicing #1: What’s Your WHY?

In case you missed “Jennifer’s 10-Day EASY Holiday Practice Challenge”, I thought I’d share some of the content from the emails here, including the daily “Food for Thought” ideas. This post is the first in a series of blogposts highlighting all 10 days!

Alexander Technique teacher musicians

Last month, more than 200 people joined “Jennifer’s 10-Day EASY Holiday Practice Challenge”, which was a huge success!

(Sign up for upcoming challenges here:  >> Jennifer’s Practice Challenges.)

During the Challenge, I sent a daily email with “Food for Thought” and a “Practice Challenge”, both designed to keep practicing simple and engaging over the stressful holiday season.

Dozens of practice videos were shared in our special Facebook group, and a ton of constructive and loving feedback was shared to help each other reach our practice goals with ease. Some pretty moving personal breakthroughs were shared, too. This has become my favorite way to practice!

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #1

What’s Your WHY?

When there’s an activity that you carry out every single day over a long period of time, it’s easy to lose sight of WHY you’re doing it.
 
Today, let’s reconnect to our deepest purpose for practicing.
 
Why do you practice?
 
Why do you play your instrument/sing?
 
Why are you a musician?
 
What do you love most about music?
 
What do you love the most about your instrument (and that includes you singers, since YOU are your instrument)?
 
No need to answer these questions exhaustively. Just some food for thought to touch on, to get the creative practicing juices flowing in a meaningful way.
***
If your curiosity is piqued by today’s Food for Thought, you’ll want to know about my NEW ONLINE COURSE teaching “Effortless Music-Making!” – an introduction to The Art of Freedom and the Alexander Technique for Musicians.

Click here for details:

YES!  TELL ME MORE ABOUT 
EFFORTLESS MUSIC-MAKING!  >>

p.s. Hurry – registration closes January 12th!

What Can a Musician/Artist Do When Uninspired?

Alexander Technique musiciansI like the idea that came to me one day, that there are little “Doubt-Monsters” (DM) (see this post) that like to make us think negative thoughts and feel negative feelings that get in our way, preventing us from creating our best work.
There’s a little DM called Fraud-Monster, haha, and he tends to visit every artist on this planet, I suspect!
Shedding the light on him is a really good idea. So I thought I’d share a bit of my own personal process, in answer to the question, “What does a musician do when uninspired, feeling like a fraud?”
When I feel uninspired, I stop.

Everything.

And I remember what Inspiration means to me.

Inspire also means in-breath… and it also has the root of the word “spirit” in it.
So it reminds me about the breath of spirit. When I’m uninspired, I’ve forgotten about this, and I realize I need to re-connect with what gives me life – breath – spirit.Alexander Technique teacher musicians

The essence of that is the same as the essence of my music and all creativity.

Without remembering that, and touching the Source of it all, I am left flailing about purposelessly, and the things I do lose their meaning and become joyless.

So, when I’m uninspired, I need to remind myself of what’s truly important to me.

Sometimes re-connecting with myself in this way is easy, and sometimes it can take days…

There are specific tools and practices that I find helpful, and the Alexander Technique is right up there at the top.

Walking outside in the beauty of nature is another thing that usually lifts my spirits and changes my breathing right away. But sometimes, even that is slow to shift things for me. But I do it anyway, because the rhythmic movement and the support of nature are essential and soothing, and this touches my heart.

Then, sometimes I see something beautiful, too, and that inspires me and makes me smile.

Or I see a child laugh…or a bird fly by…
Alexander Technique teacher musicians

Or I see others suffering and it makes me feel my own suffering more deeply, and I realize this suffering is not mine – it is the suffering of all humanity. This makes my heart go out to the world, and the focus lifts off of my own misery for just a moment, lightening my burden.

Sometimes, feeling uninspired is a sign that I’ve forgotten how connected we all are, and I’ve stopped feeling the pain of the universe, because it’s just too much to bear.

But the only way to the light at the other end of the tunnel is through it, and the best pearls that shine brightly are found at the bottom of the sea.

So when I feel sad or overwhelmed or lifeless, I swim deep and look for the Light, and I breathe and feel reassured that goodness is indeed within. Within myself and all of humanity.

Hope brings me back up and out of the depths.

And throughout all of this, it is possible to express everything through my music…the pain and the ugliness as well as the light and the joy. I play for myself and I play for you and the rest of the world all around me.

It’s all in there and everywhere, waiting to be loved and accepted for what it is.

So… all in good time…. this too shall pass. This is my experience.

Alexander Technique musiciansThe answers lie in the asking and the wondering, and as long as we are looking for ease and light, we will find them, sooner or later.

All in good time.

To me, this is how the creative process necessarily works, and inspiration will come when it’s good and ready, not one moment before.
… and just one more thing…
Fraud-Monster is the one that tries to get us to think it is our ego-personality that creates the music and does the inspiring.

Fraud-Monster wants us to forget that we are not in control of inspiration.
All we can really do is open up to noticing what is, with love and acceptance, waiting patiently while we look to beauty to reveal itself.
Love and Light are not man-made.
But we can participate in them, and appreciate them as Life’s Wonder.
How INSPIRING this is to me!!!
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Transforming My Negative Thoughts on Taking an Audition

Alexander Technique Cincinnati Musicians

I worked on the cadenza of the Tschaikovsky concerto today.

The hardest thing about practicing for me these days is the idea that I only have a short amount of time to prepare for an audition at the end of January. That’s less than two months from now.

And there is SO much music to prepare….

Here’s a list of unhelpful thoughts I’m dealing with as they come up in reaction to the idea of doing this audition:

1.       I don’t have enough time

2.       There’s too much music for me to prepare

3.       I don’t have enough time to learn new excerpts I’ve never played before

4.       I’m out of shape, and out of practice

5.       I don’t have the endurance that I should have to prepare for this audition

6.       I don’t want to embarrass myself

7.       I want to play everything well

When I work with my students, I often suggest that they make a list of reactive thoughts such as this one, and really FEEL what each thought is doing to the body as it’s being thought, so that it becomes really clear whether they are helping or not.

I’m going to experiment with each of those thoughts for myself right now. How do I feel when I think them?

……(experimenting)…..

1.       Instant pushing myself forward, feeling hurried, cringing, compressing, tight arms, turtle-neck-pulling in and down, more fearful thoughts arise instantly and take me into a negative downwards spiral.

2.       Collapse. My whole body starts to feel heavy. Emotionally, I begin to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. More negative thoughts follow: “Oh, my God…. I can’t do this……..”…. fear.

3.       Combination of 1+2

4.       Confusion, stress, startle response leads to: “I don’t know what to do,” and feelings of helplessness…

5.       “I’m weak.” Sadness. Sense of failure. Heavy, collapsed chest. My back starts to ache.

6.       I want to hide. My body pulls inwards and compresses. Tight legs, slumping shoulders…

7.       I feel myself going into “fighting” mode, and my inner competitor thinks, “I can do this! I’ll show them! I’m going to work really really hard and do my best, and everybody will be impressed at how well I play and how I was able to overcome all odds to be successful and play well at this audition!!” … and everything in my body gets tight as I push myself forwards and gear up my muscles to barge full steam ahead into WORK!!! (Ouch….. there’s NO WAY I could keep this up for even one day!)

And more…

Breathing.

I stop for a moment, realizing that I don’t like the results of thinking those unhelpful thoughts, so I choose to STOP. RIGHT NOW.

No more thinking like that!!!

It’s a recipe for pain, exhaustion, and overall malaise.

That’s not for me.

What can I do instead???

How can I work towards the goal of taking this audition while still taking care of myself and remaining true to what is even more important to me – my Peace and well-being on all planes?

First…. Just….. STOP.

Ahhh, everything softens. I find Ease….

How easy is my neck?

I smile, ready to continue with my practicing, away from the violin, and away from this laptop.

In the next moment, I continue to stop, remembering:

I am free

I have time and space

I don’t have to do anything…….

And I wonder about Ease as I find it.

This is the only way to prepare for an audition that will fully express Who I Am. And I don’t want to show them anything other than That. Win or lose… this is the way I win myself. What better outcome could I enjoy than to enjoy being Who I Am, through music? To emerge happy and whole, content with whatever transpires, knowing I am living the way I want to live… THAT is my goal, and that is my NOW.

The Art of Freedom and the Alexander Technique. NOW.

Find out more by downloading my free article on Constructive Rest (the download article on the right sidebar).