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Become the powerful artist you are meant to be!

October 10, 2014

Kudos to Art of Freedom student Ms. D. Zhang, who has just been awarded a 2nd prize in the United Nations EducationalScientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2014 sponsored essay contest, with a beautiful essay called, “Freedom Through Music,” about how Alexander Technique and Freedom Directions can benefit the world. 

It is with great pleasure that I reproduce her essay below, to celebrate her success and help her spread her passion for goodness!  May her vision to start an organization with musicians in her local area where low-income youth can receive quality, low-cost music lessons, in partnership with City Gospel Mission (CGM), bear fruit beyond her wildest dreams.  Onwards, forward and up, dear Ms. Zhang!


Freedom Through Music

by D. Zhang

As a pianist, I am frequently amazed by the many life lessons music has taught me.   Due to ongoing shoulder pain, I recently took a musician-focused class on the Alexander Technique (AT), a method on reducing unnecessary levels of physical and mental tension in daily activities.  Here, I learned the principle of “end-gaining,” a tendency people have to keep their minds and actions focused on a goal, at the expense of overlooking the unhealthy process by which the goal is achieved. I learned how high performance expectations can cause musicians to ignore unnatural practicing habits, creating physical injuries that jeopardize long-term performance careers.  I then realized that end-gaining is the root behind many societal problems.

As AT instructor Hilary King states, “From a global perspective, is the temporary end of gaining more wealth by cutting down rainforests, whilst ruining the environment…[worth] putting the [long-term] lives of people and….animals at risk?”   Poverty is not just about generational economic poverty.  It includes the emotional poverty children feel when their parents are too career-driven to go to soccer games and cheer them on to scoring that first life-changing goal.  Advertisements scream society’s need to do and have more instantaneously in little time. Through all this, we overlook the stress, anxiety, health problems, and “lost time” that is produced when we ungratefully ignore the small and innate blessings we were designed to appreciate.  Think about how many conflicts could be avoided if we took the time to understand the people around us, instead of simply making assumptions.  Consider how much more effective charity organizations would be if they took the time to listen to the receivers themselves first instead of ministering to the poor with preconceived ideas of how to “fix things,” only to be disappointed when they fail to produce long-lasting, quantifiable results.

So what is the future forward for humanity?  The answer was again presented very simply in AT class, in what my instructor, Jennifer Roig-Francoli, terms “Freedom Directions.” When musicians realize through self-awareness that they have habits—unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and actions—when they play, they have two choices.  They have the freedom to continue the habit, or to stop, inhibiting the habit.  Similarly, as humans, we are free to keep following our society’s fast-paced, destructive patterns, or we can choose to reverse old habits, producing new habits that may take more time but produce better everlasting results. For business leaders, this means shifting from a task and number oriented outlook in the workplace to one where positive relationships between employees are also valued.  This means taking the time to encourage a homeless man while he tells his story instead of simply giving him a handout. For NGO workers working in foreign countries, this means being open-minded to the fact that the culture they are from is not the more superior one, and taking the time to look for resources already in the native culture that could enable them to overcome poverty.

These realizations give me a new freedom as I inspire to start an organization with musicians in the local area where low-income youth can receive quality, low-cost music lessons.  I am also blessed to be carrying out this dream by partnering with City Gospel Mission (CGM), an NGO that “aims to break the cycle of poverty and despair one life at a time through developing effective relationships.” Through the homeless shelter, addiction recovery programs, youth tutoring/ballet/sports programs, etc. that CGM has already started, I have been modeled on how to equip others with the spiritual, physical, social, emotional, and other resources needed to overcome poverty.  Initially this summer, I was plagued by anxiety.  I felt guilty that pain had delayed my vision from starting last summer, and I was overwhelmed about various logistical details.  Then I realize that I had already been blessed with the financial resources to start teaching a few students and, the joy of a healthier body to pour into my first few students.   I know that my role is not simply to be a piano teacher, but to use music as a relational avenue to teach them life lessons so they can feel the freedom to achieve their dreams and inspire others.

Copyright: UNESCO, 2014; reproduced by kind permission of UNESCO
Click here to read the essay here on the UNESCO site

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Alexander Technique, Awareness, competition, freedom, music, prize, world peace

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  1. As usual, Jennifer, you offer marvelous food for thought. I salute your efforts and congratulate your successes. Hardly a day or moment goes by in which I do not reflect on, and apply your AT teaching.

    Thanks and love,

    Tom and Anne Sherwood

    1. Dear Tom, How lovely to hear from you! And especially wonderful to hear how much the AT work we did together a couple years ago continues to inform your experience. Thanks so much for writing – I really appreciate your warm words! Love to you and Anne 🙂

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