Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I've moved!

All new podcast show notes and blog posts are now housed at the Harmonious Bodies website. Come on over!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Podcast #7: Madeline Bruser, Piano Teacher

Pianist Madeline Bruser has performed as soloist with the San Francisco and Denver Symphony Orchestras. She has conducted seminars and workshops at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Southern California, the Music Academy of the West, the MedArt World Congress on Arts and Medicine, and college music departments and music teachers' organizations throughout the United States and Canada. She also appeared on National Public Radio's "Performance Today" in an interview and piano lesson broadcast in 200 cities.

Ms. Bruser is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, which combines musical, meditative, and physiological principles. Her book was published in Korean in 2000 and in Chinese in 2005. She has retrained pianists with practice-related injuries since 1985, and from 2001 to 2003 she served on the Committee for Pianists' Wellness for the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. Her research on the physiological mechanics of piano playing has included interviews with leading arts medicine professionals specializing in physiatrics, physical therapy, and hand therapy, as well as with teachers of the Alexander Technique, Body-Mind Centering, and Laban Movement Analysis. In 2002 she founded Golden Key Music Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping musicians unlock their innate talent and fulfill their deepest artistic potential.

Ms. Bruser won First Prize in the Denver Symphony North American Young Artists Competition and was a prizewinner in the First National Chopin Competition. She also received the Alfred Hertz Award for Music from the University of California in two consecutive years. She has appeared in recital at Carnegie Recital Hall and at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., and has performed on radio in the U.S. and Europe. She studied with Alexander Libermann, Menahem Pressler, Irwin Freundlich, John Crown, Jeanne Stark-Iochmans, and Paul Hersh. Ms. Bruser graduated from the Juilliard School in 1970 and received a Master of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1978.

An authorized meditation instructor, Ms. Bruser leads the annual Meditation for Musicians retreat in Vermont—a weeklong program integrating meditation practice with music workshops applying principles of body mechanics, meditative listening, and relaxation. She also teaches an annual Meditation for Musicians weekend in New York City.

Ms. Bruser teaches piano privately in New York City, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she has served on the Adjunct Piano Faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Recommended resources from Madeline Bruser:

Violin Concepts by Gary Kosloski
Shambhala.org - resources for meditation
Art Of Practicing
Golden Key Music Institute

Podcast #6: Joseph Arnold, violinist

Podcast #6 is an interview with Joseph Arnold. He is a violinist who studied jazz at Carnegie Mellon University and performs and tours regularly with various ensembles such as the Hot Club of Philadelphia and with Anna Vogelzang. He speaks about his experiences with playing related pain as a music student, and how he has learned from his journey.

Joseph's recommended resources are:
The Alexander Principle by Wilfred Barlow
Indirect Procedures by Pedro de Alcantara

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Podcast #5: OluShola Cole: Improvisation, Movement, and Life

OluShola Cole is a Connecticut based performer, musician and singer/song writer. As a national performer with Broadway's percussive sensation Stomp and artistic collaborator with various artists, including Harmonious Soul, RubyFruit and Bobby McFerrin, Ms Cole is inspired by music, improvisation, performance and teaching. She has appeared on various national and international talk shows including Otro Rollo and Late Night with Carson Daly, and has made her professional vocal debut at Carnegie Hall. As one of Connecticut's emerging teaching artists, she has co-opted her belief of Improvisation as Movement and Movement is Life to innovate and successfully teach her Body Vocality! Workshops, which are vocal improvisation and movement classes geared towards exploring creative expression and designed for all levels and abilities. In addition to teaching artistry, Ms. Cole also challenges herself by honing her artistic philosophies in an academic context. She is working towards a Bachelors of General Studies with a Social Science Concentration, with the her personal tools of Music, Improvisation, and Life.

Podcast #4: Tammy Brackett, music publicist and public relations guru

This interview with Tammy Brackett comes just in time for tour season! Tammy Brackett is the owner of Moonstruck Promotions and provides publicity and public relations services to recording and touring musicians. She was a touring and performing musician for 25 years and has been in the music business as a booking agent, tour manager, publicist and public relations professional since 1995. She is a graduate of the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte NC, the mom of two very musical sons and the significant other of a very musical man.

Tammy has written four "musician friendly" booklets - 40 pages or less - meant to be read in hotel rooms or in the van. They are:
50 Ways to Tour Without Getting in the Van - innovative tips and marketing ideas to tour your music but not yourself
50 Rules of Rock - one sentence wisdom, insight and philosophy from the world of music
Backstage Pass: Book Your Band and Backstage Pass: Organize Your Band - simple implementable D.I.Y guides
She is currently working on Soundcheck is for Cowards- Questionable Quotes and Wiley Wisdom from the World of Rock.
Check out her website and blog, which feature musicians' health this month!

Monday, May 4, 2009

5 self care tips for musicians

Playing music in and of itself can be a way of taking care of yourself - connecting to what's important. Here are some tips for reconnecting to yourself as a music maker:

1. Warm up by checking in with the ground and your breath. Close your eyes, breathe, and check in before picking up your instrument/sitting at the piano/singing. Where do you feel supported by the ground? How can you let your breath be easy?

As you start your favorite warm-up, recheck your breath and the ground under you. Feel your entire self playing the instrument from the ground up, rather than focusing on your arms or vocal cords. Your body can better distribute the task of playing when you have a wide focus.

Periodically come back to this perspective as often as you like during the practice session, and pause again before putting away your instrument. Notice when this check-in is easy and when it's hard.

2. Pace yourself. Muscles and tendons worked without a break get irritated and break down. It's easy to see this when we lift 20 heavy boxes on moving day and we instinctively take rests. It's harder to see this when the work is 20,000 small movements of the fingers, wrists, arms, and back. As the smaller muscles fatigue, they spasm, making it harder for blood to get in and re-nourish the tissues.

It can be much more difficult for the body to repair the small microtraumas that keep happening practice session after session for months than that big trauma on moving day that makes you quit lifting heavy objects for three days!

What can you do? At least every 20 to 30 minutes, put your instrument down. Gently replenish your blood flow by lightly shaking out your hands and arms, walking around, breathing deeply, and/or enjoying a few yoga poses (see below). This is still practice time, reflecting on what you've worked on and what you'd like to do next.

Do you do better work if your boss lets you take a walk during lunch and a coffee break or two, or if she demands that you work straight through lunch and inhale a sandwich at your desk while working until eight o'clock? Your body is the same way.

3. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. It's not just for singers anymore. This freebie will lubricate your tissues, making them less likely to get injured, and get rid of the waste products built up from the microtraumas of playing.

Get yourself a nice big 32 ounce BPA-free plastic bottle with a screw on lid. Fill it first thing in the morning. Drink it at work. At lunchtime, it should be empty. Fill it again. Voila, you have your eight eight-ounce glasses right there. I manage to do this during my busy therapy workday during quick trips to my desk, so anyone can if I can. Bonus: all that water in your system will keep you from sitting inert at your desk for hours. That 20 to 30 minute break works for computer work, too.

4. Get friendly with basic yoga postures. Yoga can help musicians with greater control over stress and stage fright, focus, breathing, and the strength and flexibility to prevent injury, to name a few benefits. It's best to learn by taking a class for beginners to really learn the basics from a qualified teacher. However, anyone can start to practice a few postures on their own. Some postures of particular benefit to musicians are Eagle Pose (you may want to just begin with the arm portion), Cobra, and Downward Facing Dog.

You can find short yoga sequences for varying experience levels in the Yogamazing video podcast.

5. Eat 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. Yup, there's a reason you've heard it from your doctor and it's printed on the produce bags at the supermarket. Seriously, it will help you feel more energetic and get sick less often. Plant foods are packed with vitamins and fiber. Your body will thank you. Work into this gradually, adding in another serving per day over the course of a week or two.

Share your own tips in the comments!

(Artwork: "Piano Dance" by Greg Gierlowski)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Podcast #3: Bill Roche, Horn Player

In Podcast #3, I interview Bill Roche, a horn player who speaks candidly about his experiences with a playing-related injury. He has played in the Army Field Band and has been a public music school teacher. He will soon be a certified Alexander technique teacher in the Baltimore area.

Bill's recommended resources are:
Pip Eastop