F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) was a reciter of Shakespeare who gradually lost his voice. Why? He wasn’t sick. It’s not that he wasn’t projecting enough. Nor was it that his microphone wasn’t turned up enough because he didn’t have one in the first place.
No one, doctors and medical men alike, in the early 20th century could tell him what was going on with his voice, so he took matters into his own hands. In observing himself, he gradually became aware of extra effort and tension he was holding and using when performing on stage. In essence, he was causing his own problems.
Alexander discovered that we’re all doing too much with our bodies. From the Alexander Technique standpoint we need to first find, learn and then stop what we already like to do with ourselves. This is unlearning.
My name is Joe and I’m a musician who gradually lost the ability to play the upright bass. Why? It’s not that I was lazy. It’s not that I wasn’t trying hard enough or practicing enough either. Try 4 hours a day!
Just like F.M. I was causing my own problems by doing too much. I was holding my breath because I was nervous of being on stage. I was overusing and straining my arms from over playing and I was over focusing because I was terrified of making a mistake. I worried too much about the music and not enough about my body and this eventually caught up with me.
After suffering from chronic RSI (repetitive strain injury) and two elbow surgeries I was introduced to the Alexander Technique. Right away I could see that I was not helping myself out in any way. A lot of my issues were from how I was using, or rather misusing, my body in practicing the bass and in living in general. Thanks to the Alexander Technique I'm back to playing and making music, being a professional musician with the group RIVERS.
Joe Schaefer is AmSAT-certified. He completed AT Mid-Atlantic’s teacher training program in 2015 and has trained and worked with Nancy Romita, Wendy Salkind and Robert Bedford over the past 5 years.