Benslow 2018

Playing with Ease: Explore Your Potential to Move Freely with and Around Your Instrument

Following on from the success of the previous year at Benslow Music, Jo Horder and Yeu-Meng Chan ran a one-day workshop in June 2018 titled ‘Playing with Ease: Explore Your Potential to Move Freely with and Around Your Instrument’. Very encouragingly, the workshop was fully subscribed with a waiting list months before the date of the event!
The participants were mainly orchestral instrumentalists with a few pianists, so we focussed on two main themes relevant to them, which were, ‘Dynamic Balance in Sitting’ and ‘Exploring and Liberating the Use of the Arms’. Within those themes, we also covered performance anxiety, pain in playing and practice efficiency.
As the players were of varying abilities and experience, we broke the ice with playing a scale in unison. This was followed by a lesson in sitting, exploring the concept of soft hands and how the hands connected to the rest of the body. We finished that session with playing the same scale again and discussed the changes that took place.
The session before lunch featured ‘Clint’, Jo’s plastic skeleton (so called after an actor with chiselled features!) in the exploration of the shoulder girdle. To clarify this important structure in movement, Jo taught ‘Rolling Fists’, a very popular ATM for discovering the complex structure of the shoulder girdle. They did this lesson lying down on the floor so that new connections could be made and felt without the habitual holding of oneself when being upright.

The session after lunch was a slightly longer one and participants were invited to individually play a very short excerpt of music which they had prepared. We then did a quick version of ‘Rolling Fist’s in sitting before they were invited to come to the front and play again to see what effect the lesson had on their playing.
During this, some hands on and simple verbal instructions were administered to see what effect it could have on the playing. Both the players and the ‘audience’ were amazed at how so little could change so much for the better.
We finished the day with a recap of ‘Rolling Fists’ lesson in standing to reiterate the learning of the connection of the arms to the rest of the body in different positions.
At the end of a rather intense day, the participants left on a high with a keen interest for a follow up session. They had really enjoyed the fact that learning had taken place in an environment where they were invited to explore and be playful and non-judgmental about their performance. We were given very good feedback from all of the participants and strategies were suggested on how they could take the work forward.

Here’s what one participant said about the workshop:
“I wanted to thank you and Jo for running the ’Playing with Ease’ workshop at Benslow Music, it was brilliant and very enlightening. I would definitely recommend Feldenkrais® to my friends and other players having been on the day. I have also been thinking about the things that we learned whilst playing and while at work and started to notice habits that could be changed to help with general movement. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm.”
Nicola Claiden

Photograph taken at Benslow Music and used with permission.
Article & photograph by Yeu-Meng Chan