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Alexander Teachers in Print
(First published in STATNews, September 2008)

Piano Playing

An article about Nelly Ben-Or’s work applying the Alexander Technique to piano playing has appeared in Piano magazine. Author Malcolm Miller describes Nelly as a pioneer in the application of the Technique to music-making. A teacher for more than 30 years, she works at the Guildhall and gives international masterclasses twice a year from her home in London. The article describes how the Technique goes far deeper than the avoidance of unnecessary tension "into the very core of musical interpretation and sonority." Nelly’s Alexander training led her to challenge the orthodoxies of piano pedagogy and reassess the process of learning and performing. Key to her approach is learning music away from the instrument: "to internally hear it and think it clearly so that one is not tying oneself in knots." She believes that practising should consist of analysing complex passages into simple components, thinking of them cohesively as "a succession of simple components which are easy to play". The purpose is to use your intelligence rather than training mechanically. For Nelly, the Technique leads to much greater freedom so you can choose how to do whatever it is you’re doing. For instance, the effort of releasing sound is minimal, "providing we have a really alive and alert contact with the keyboard." The Technique has guided Nelly’s own personal quest for "greater clarity and simplicity: clarity in learning and simplicity in execution."


Keeping in Line, Malcolm Miller, Piano magazine, July-August 2008, Rhinegold Publishing.




Teacher Jo Fisher and student Ruth Tod have each had an article published in the Friend, the Quaker weekly journal. The best-known practice observed by Quakers is a group of people sitting still in silence, and they talk about ‘centring down’ into the silence. Jo suggests that a ‘centring up’ may be a more beneficial thought, so that the body can be at rest, allowing the mind to be alert and aware, and ultimately giving space for the depth of spirituality to emerge. Jo finds that both Quakerism and the Alexander Technique feed and enhance her life; she aims never to let an opportunity pass to tell others about both.


Ruth, a student at LCATT, describes how the Technique has enabled her to deepen her spiritual practice by finding a fuller, deeper sense of stillness, even amongst the crowds on the bus. Instead of lurching forward into action, the Technique is helping her to allow a pool of calm to emerge in front of her, so she is able to deal with things more calmly. On her training course, they begin and end each day with five or ten minutes sitting in silence, which is very like the Quaker practice of silence before and after joint activities such as meals and discussion groups.


Being mindful of body and spirit, The Friend, 7 March 2008. www.thefriend.org



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