1. Mistakes Are Not Just Encouraged, They're Celebrated
One of the most memorable quotes from Barbara Conable at the Andover Educator's conference I attended in 2011 is, "Mistakes are Information." We can spend a lot of time avoiding mistakes, making sure we aren't cracking or missing notes, but avoiding the risk of making a mistake robs us of the chance to improve. Making mistakes on purpose shines a light on what we're doing and puts us in control to experiment and understand what we can change to find our desired solution.
2. The Big Toe is More Important That You'd Think
Learning about the big toe and the evolution of bone structure during an Alexander Technique class changed my playing! The big toe plays a key functional role in propelling us forward into motion, and we can access this in preparing to play, energizing the entire body out of tension and into movement.
3. The Space of the Room (and Beyond) Provides Support
Previously, my most common state of awareness was something like my upper body and the music stand, and that's about it. I learned to add in all the senses, kinesthetic included, and notice my entire body within the space. This allowed me to release and feel supported by the space surrounding me in all directions, and resonate my sound further than just the area in front of me. In addition, opening myself up to all the space, (and recognizing how much space exists beyond the walls of the room) took me out of my small realm of self-judgement, and put me into a state of mindful observation.
4. You Can't Breathe Into Your Intestines
Well, I knew on some level that air exchanges in the lungs, but one of the most common instructions I had heard from a number of wind instructors growing up was to, "take a deep, belly breath." My perception of what actually happened internally when breathing was skewed. Learning the anatomical reality of the lungs and their location in the body, their relationship with the ribs and the movement available at each rib, the movement of the spine, and the actual location and role of the diaphragm gave me the opportunity to allow a natural, efficient breath. The organs below the diaphragm will move down and outward upon breathing as a result of the diaphragm moving downward upon inhalation, and we can allow them room to move by releasing the abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, and legs.
5. Take a Leap of Faith and Trust
Inhibiting certain habits that have been a part of my playing for so long was scary. It felt wrong or like I wasn't doing enough when leaving out certain things, such as giving myself a "cue" with my arms when inhaling, or shifting my feet and pulling upward at difficult moments. Becoming aware of these habits and allowing myself to play continuously without them presented vast possibilities. I suddenly realized that I can play with resonance, with consistency, make longer phrases, and listen to the piece and react to each moment.