An Experience to Remember
By Pamela Blanc
Published in the AmSAT News, Spring 2004
You never know who might contact you when you are attending the AmSAT AGM.
Last June while attending the Annual General Meeting of the American Society for the Alexander Technique I phoned home to my answering service. There was a message from a David Roan, a musician I had met in October 2001. He said he was putting together a classical guitar cruise. Yes, that’s right, classical guitarists playing music while floating on the Pacific Ocean on a Carnival Cruise Line Ship.
You never know whom you are going to meet when you present the Alexander Technique.
Now, when I say I met David Roan two years ago, understand that we met because I had been invited to participate in the MusiCares Health Fair, an educational service-oriented health fair dedicated to meeting the needs of Los Angeles-area music professionals. This Health Fair provided attendees free access to a wide range of health and human services. Attendees had the opportunity to view demonstrations, interactive presentations, and pick up information on services such as repetitive stress injuries, artist addiction/recovery, hearing tests, Alexander Technique, Music Therapy, and HIV. I invited a then recent ATI-LA graduate, Geordie MacMinn, to assist me and together we “manned” a table and informed attendees about the benefits of AT. I was given a 30-minute time slot on the main stage for my Alexander Technique demonstration. When I asked for a volunteer from the audience, David Roan raised his hand. It was October 21, 2001.
You never know when you are going to be remembered.
So, in June 2003, David remembers meeting me at the MusiCares Health Fair in 2001 and phones me while I am at the AGM to say that he is tired of reading what is dominating the newspaper headlines and he wants to do something positive in the world. He loves classical guitar music and is a classical guitarist. He decides to bring a community of classical guitarists together on board a cruise. Although he has not followed up with having Alexander Technique lessons for himself, he knows it is “good stuff” and wants me to join his cruise.
You never know where the word to the wise comes from.
Since I was at the AGM when I received this invitation, I confided in my dear friend and colleague, Bob Britton, saying, “I don’t know if this thing will fly (sail) or not. I met this guy once. Yes, I remember him as being a nice guy, but at this point in my career should I be saying yes to something with questionable success and little? Bob’s reply, “Pamela, are you kidding? Of course you should do it! This is when we CAN say yes to these opportunities.”
You know the Alexander Technique is going to come in handy.
So, I said yes to the Classical Guitar Cruise. We sailed December 7th for seven days leaving Long Beach, California, for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and returning with stops in Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The first night on board I was asked to give a little introduction to the Alexander Technique. The second day at sea I gave a Master Class. During the rest of the cruise I scheduled individual Alexander lessons as time allowed, met guitar makers and players, attended the concerts presented by four incredible classical guitarists and went to their Master classes, wined and dined, danced in the disco, played in the Casino and frequented the spa on board. In port I enjoyed margaritas with my feet in the sand, bought blankets and silver on the beach, snorkeled in the Sea of Cortez, all the while freeing my neck!
You never know where the truth will be found. It’s everywhere.
One last thing I want to share with you about this experience is the phenomenal Master Class I gave! Now, I’m not one to brag (!) but this class spoke of the principles of the Alexander Technique so clearly even I was impressed. The reason it was so phenomenal is because I taught the class after watching a very gifted guitar teacher teach a Master Class. The guitar teacher was Adam Holzman, founder of the Guitar Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Adam was working with a student in front of the group. He empathetically guided the student’s awareness to the excessive tension in the student’s right hand. He asked the student to take his hand off the guitar and to relax his hand. The student had difficulty letting go of the tension, but Adam was patient and gently picked up the student’s hand and guided it back to the strings, at which point the student began to tense up his had again. Adam said, “No, relax your hand.” Again he gently picked up the student’s hand and guided it back to the strings saying, “Don’t think of playing the guitar. Just put your hand there without even playing. That’s it. Now play one note. No, don’t tense the hand. Yes, play one note.” The note was played and it had a ring and vibration to it that previously wasn’t there. The student said in disbelief, “One note!?” Adam said, “Yes, there’s where we begin.”
It was a beautiful lesson. I loved watching a great teacher and artist at work with another artist. Two hours later when I was standing in front of the same group I simply stated that Adam had introduced the Alexander Technique for me. I explained that the Alexander Technique is based on certain principles and that Adam spoke to those principles without ever naming them. First, he helped the student become aware of unnecessary tension that was interfering with his playing the guitar. Second, he asked him to inhibit playing the guitar and to direct his attention to leaving his hand alone as he strummed a note. He prevented the student from end gaining and asked him to focus on one note, the means whereby, at a time. Music was made.
Of course, I went on to explain the concept of the primary control and demonstrated how the “chair work” in an Alexander lesson is an opportunity to explore these same principles. Once these principles are understood and embodied, they can be applied readily to any activity. I worked with individuals in the chair and at their instruments, identifying the principles as we went.2005 Pamela Blanc. All rights reserved.