I had such a wonderful experience this week as I sat down to read my CCM students’ weekly journal entries. One after another, my Alexander Technique students just blew me away with their mind-boggling insights into how to apply the skills I’m teaching them to their lives, musical practice, performance, and human relationships.
In fact, I was so impressed by their work that I decided to ask several of them if I could quote their entries to share with my readers here, because I’m convinced that many of you may find benefit from reading about their experiences.
In this post, I’d like to introduce Mr. Wooram Kwon, a violist/violinist who has graciously allowed me to publish his honest insights on “How to practice orchestra excerpts using Alexander Technique”
“I have orchestra auditions coming up in May and also in June so I pushed myself a bit harder in practice rooms these days. However, after our Alexander Technique class last Thursday, by watching Matt’s individual session, I thought about my playing in the same way and tried to find out what I am doing at this moment. It was not hard to figure out.
I found out that I AM NOT ENJOYING THE MUSIC which I was preparing for my auditions (excerpts). I know what they are about and I studied and learned how to prepare them and how to present it but I was not in love with it. I think somehow in my head I believed playing the excerpts are like shooting bullets to a target and trying my best to hit the bull’s eyes to prove I am a good shooter. I think that’s all I wanted to be.
I also just wanted to make judges feel impressed and pleased by my playing so I can win the job. I didn’t think about how I feel at all. I didn’t try to put myself into the music and totally ignored me as a music maker. I just treated the excerpts as a product. If an outcome or a final product comes out ok during the audition, I believed that will satisfy me. I think I was totally wrong because that’s not why I am playing my loving instruments, the violin and viola and that’s not why I chose the path to become a musician for my life.
I tried to change the perspective of how to prepare the audition and more specifically I had to change my view of how to practice the excerpts. First, I tried to free my body. I made sure that my neck, my joints and my hipbone are free no matter what. I still did all the mechanical works such as fixing the intonations, getting the right rhythms and keeping the steady time but I tried to use my senses (other than hearing) for it. I tried to visualize the music with the colors and to feel the touch and the scent of the specific sound and particular rhythms and also I even tried to imagine what kind of tastes it can be for some chords or some rhythmic gestures. It was strange experiences but I ENJOYED doing it.
After that process, when I work on the phrasing stuffs and styles, I tried many different ways to find answers, even though my teacher gave me the answers already for specific phrasing problems. Especially, I tried to vocalize the phrasing many times and tried to engage my body to the music. I walked with it and I danced to it. I tried to feel the beauty, love and enjoyment from the music by doing it. Depends on the pieces, sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was very tough, but still I tried to have some positive attachment and connection with what I am doing. I didn’t push myself to do it if I don’t feel like doing for certain moment or certain pieces because I shouldn’t force myself to like doing anything otherwise my body and my mind will get stressed out. I tried to find pure joy of doing it.
I also remembered what we discussed about the inhibition in the class. I tried to inhibit what I know already, I tried to find something new in any piece of music and tried to find something to appreciate. There were so many things I found and I wrote them on a practice journal.
I did it for couple days and the amazing thing was that the practicing and the preparation can be so much fun even for orchestra excerpts. I totally forgot a simple fact that they are music, too. I also got more attachment with the music and I feel like my whole body is playing the music, not just my brain, fingers and arms. Even though, I don’t get done as much as I did before in the practice room because I have more processes and it requires slower pacing, my practice time is more interesting and more engaging than before.”
Many thanks to Wooram for allowing me to publish his essay! It’s so gratifying to watch my own students become their own best teachers. That’s what my work is all about, and it makes me so happy to witness their success. How blessed am I to teach this amazing work!
We’d love to hear about your experiences with practicing – whether it’s orchestral excerpts or anything else. Can you relate to the things Wooram has described? Let us know in the comments below!
Peace & Joy,
You can help a musician and help support my practice by sharing this post! 🙂
Join my MAILING LIST to receive my monthly newsletter with blog updates and other news for musicians by using one of the boxes on the right