Forward and Up – Alexander Technique

Forward and Up “Forward and up!” These words give more than a direction. These words describe a state of mind. Dr. Laura Medesky challenged many students and faculty in Maranatha’s Music Department during a specialized workshop given on campus. The Alexander Technique provides a way to develop more awareness and control in everyday activities and is applicable to many people, especially musicians. Musicians who have struggled with back/neck pain, wrist issues, muscle problems, voice hoarseness etc. have eliminated these problems through Alexander Technique. Alexander Technique emphasizes freedom vs. relaxation, poise vs. posture, and tone vs. tension.

Medesky demonstrated how posture affects the length of the back. When thinking about lengthening the back and the “forward and up” concept, it is even possible to be taller. Justin Landers, a senior Piano Performance major who happens to be slightly “height-challenged,” is encouraged that he could be another three-fourths of an inch taller by simply being more aware of the “forward and up” concept—a concept which initiates the release and lengthening of the spine.

Many students felt that the hands-on activities allowed them to understand more about the purpose of the technique. Students were able to feel the results within their own bodies. Senior Music Education flute major, Leasha Folk, said that presentation has made her more conscious about freeness in her flute playing rather than solely focusing on making a good sound from her instrument.

Medesky also demonstrated inhibition, that is, inhibiting habits. All in attendance were instructed in how to “not pick up a chair.” The chair activity helped participants discover how most people have the habit of caving in to the inanimate object when picking it up. By thinking “forward and up,” the habit can be inhibited. Other activities to help one become aware of inhibition and develop sensory appreciation include brushing teeth with the opposite hands, putting pants on with the opposite leg/coat with the opposite arm, and switching hands when reaching for something.

Because Alexander Technique is not a quick fix, some Maranatha musicians are considering taking lessons to learn how to effectively apply the technique to their playing. After the workshop, Dr. David Ledgerwood, Music Department Chair, said that he has been practicing the “forward and up” concept while he is in choir rehearsals and is becoming more aware of what he is doing. Written by Melissa Aurand Haese, Piano Pedagogy Major. Edited by Janet Tschida.