Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Feldenkrais® for You, the Musician, or Future Musician

Feldenkrais® for You, the Musician, or
Future Musician

Awareness Through Movement® classes to help create your extraordinary musical skill!!!

Led by James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner® (1994)

As a musician, or someone who enjoys playing music, would you like to improve your prowess, dexterity, breathing, or be able to play with total grace and pleasure, without experiencing any pain or discomfort?

As a Feldenkrais practitioner, my Awareness Through Movement® group classes will help you to expand your kinesthetic, or bodily, awareness of yourself.  By you ”encompassing more of yourself”, attaining a greater self-image, often times, pain or discomfort is eliminated.

Awareness Through Movement® is the group class format of Feldenkrais work.  Here, I will verbally direct you through a series of comfortable movement sequences that will engage you in a precisely structured movement exploration to make you more aware of your habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities and expand your options for new ways of moving while increasing sensitivity and improving efficiency.

When:  9 a.m. - 10 a.m.  Saturdays, beginning November 3, 2012

Where:  My office at 1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suite #206, Santa Monica, CA 90401  tel. 310-395-1952

Fee:  $12 per class, or 5-class package for $50

Class size limited.  To assure your class space, please call tel. 310-395-1952 to RSVP.

* Please feel free to bring a mat or blanket to class for further comfort.
James SpeerJames Speer

James Speer
, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner® (1994)
Growing up in a music family, James has gratefully been surrounded by music his whole life.
In 8th grade, he was seated as the 1st chair for Trumpet in the New York Junior High
School All-State Band (encompassing the whole state).  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass being his idol, he learned all their songs by heart, luvin’ it!

When sometimes having to experience dogma and rigid teaching from otherwise good intentioned regimented music instructors, James realized that his best developmental moments as a musician came when he was “cut some slack” and allowed to creatively explore his Self, his instrument, and the relationship between the two.

As a Feldenkrais Practitioner, James loves working with musicians.  James’s forte is playing the trumpet.  Also being familiar with playing keyboards and a little bit of guitar, musicians are his kin.  James was destined to be a professional trumpet player.  However, after becoming obsessed with the genius music of the world's greatest rock band, Led Zeppelin, this changed his focus in his musical taste.  After having finally met Robert Plant, James realizes that he is the world's absolute nicest guy.

After a 10-year successful career with Eastman Kodak Co. as a mechanical engineer, in 1994, James completed the 4-year Feldenkrais Professional Training Program for Movement Reeducation.  He has twice presented Feldenkrais for the International Association of Fitness Professionals at their World Fitness Expo & Conventions.  James treats all patients having neurological or orthopedic conditions, improving their mobility and action.  He currently plays and performs with the American TCM Orchestra in Los Angeles.

Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 206
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
"Health Is All that Matters!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Having fun while playing music … the best way to learn and develop

Dear Musician, Future Musician, as well as Music Lover!

A big “Hello!” to you.  You are "my kin"!

Let me start by saying that, as a Feldenkrais practitioner, I love working with musicians, albeit, my kin. My forte is playing the trumpet (more on that below).  However, I also am familiar with playing keyboards, especially the piano, as well as a little bit of guitar.  This helps lend itself to understand the aches, pains and tribulations that musicians of all instruments sometimes experience in an effort to achieve perfection.

Back in the day, I was rather good at playing the trumpet.  Let me please share some reasons for that.:

Sure.  It's sometimes good to have a regimented music teacher, someone who lays down a structure, who sticks to the basics, etc.  This kind of teacher usually sticks to drilling a student on learning to play scales, to play (sometimes boring) etudes, or other kinds of drills.  However, I also believe that it is helpful to have variety.  Therefore, I also believe what helped me a lot ...

I am blessed to have had as my very first music teacher, “Mr. Clark”, through the public school system that I attended.  It was in the 3rd grade when my beloved father purchased for me a brand new trumpet.  I remember vividly.  However, it was inferred as being a fun, casual thing.  I didn’t have to take it at all seriously.  Thus, I would say that my biggest years for musical development were my grade school years, grades 3 through 5 that I spent with Mr. Clark.  Looking back I am fortunate that my parents really never pushed me to succeed at learning how to play the trumpet.  They just sort of laid back and let me pursue my own curiosity and interests regarding the instrument.  There was never any push to make it better, or “play more nicely”. Or a push to enter a certain contest or win a musical award and the like.  However, on my own, because I wanted to, later on I did enter contests, win musical awards, enter competitions …

I would show up for my weekly lessons, in Mr. Clark’s office, sometimes with 1, 2, or maybe 3 other trumpet students, and we kids were allowed to have fun  … to explore  … to play  … to even frequently joke.

Outside of the fun, “free-to-explore” Mr. Clark, as well as weekly band practice with the grade school band led also by Mr. Clark, I was fortunate to have a wonderful role model, that being the marvelous trumpet player, Herb Alpert.  Most likely if you were born before 1970, you are familiar with the magnificently fun music group, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.  Herb’s unique trumpet sound was popularly heard on television, such as in the opening as well as in other parts of the notorious show, The Dating Game.  Herb’s horn became widely known for lively blasting the “Teaberry Shuffle”, for the illustrious advertisement for Teaberry Gum …  Not to mention, Herb’s magical renditions of the songs, “The Lonely Bull”, “Spanish Flea”, “Tijuana Taxi”, “This Guy’s in Love with You”, … the list of hits goes on …  Even as late as 1979, during the disco era, Herb had an excellent hit, titled "Rise", which was played in every disco.  With a great dance beat, everyone was luvin’ it.

I collected all of Herb Alpert's albums.  This was back in the day of the LP, with the uniquely illustrious covers protecting these priceless records.  Does anyone remember the cover to Herb’s album, “Whipped Cream”?  Let’s just say that Herb would always state in concert to the audience, “We’re sorry that we can’t play the Cover for you.” 

Within the comforts of my home, I frequently put Herb’s records on the stereo and played along with him.  I learned all the notes of his songs, either through imitation or by buying a "Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass songbook".  Because I was exposed to his smooth, make-it-look-easy, trumpet playing style, apparently my inner body intelligence (fortunately) thought that that was how a trumpet player is supposed to play, rather, how a trumpet player is supposed to sound.  Apparently, my body (and brain) registered or recorded that this was the way to play a trumpet.

Herb Alpert was my idol.  I knew and played by heart all of the songs of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  Extremely Luvin’ it!

Occasionally, I would turn on the radio ... a pop music station  ... I would then play along with the melody of the song.  Sure.  I didn't get all the notes right away.  But, after several, ... several, ... several minutes, I was finally able to figure out what the notes were and to then be able to play along with the pop artist that was singing.  If it was a rock tune, I would learn the notes (with sometimes a lot of trial and error, but this was OK.) and then play along with it.  I enjoyed myself.  I enjoyed what I was playing.  I was having fun.  If I wasn't having fun, I let it go for the day.

As a child, when I became tired, or it didn't seem fun any more, I instinctively knew when to stop playing for the time being.  I didn't have the belief that I was to "push myself", rather, to falsely conjure up more energy to artificially continue to play.

I got creative.  I sometimes blew out any notes that I felt like honking or proclaiming out from my horn.  I wrote a few songs.  :-)   Shabby and as rudimentary as they were, my songs probably made no sense to anyone else, but I was having a ball.  And, apparently, it's under fun conditions like this that my body was learning to have fun and to play well.

I played fun stuff that was fun to me, again, Herb Alpert music.  I guess that Herb's sound back in the 1960's and 70's would be referred to today as something like "smooth jazz with a Mexican ethnic twist", or something of the like.  It spoke to me at the time.  I loved it!

Another thing that I believe was helpful for my development as a trumpeter was that I was very often receiving positive praise and feedback from those around me, such as my family, classmates and friends, regarding “Jimmy’s beautiful playing”.  I was often told how wonderful I was.  Thus, I actually started believing it. 
  This then nicely snowballed or grew upon itself in a good way, in that I continued to have more positive thoughts about myself, which then continued to nourish me and my development for trumpet playing.  Then, I received more praise and accolades … thus, a wonderfully positive vicious cycle.  It’s probably logical that you become great when you’re repeatedly told you’re great.  The universe manifests itself.

One other thing that I believe was helpful in my development as a trumpet player … 

When I was young, my beloved mother knew to buy for me as a gift one of the “Music Minus One” records from their extensive collection series.  She bought for my birthday, the “Music Minus One” series for “Duke Ellington”, with its accompanying songbook.  Duke was a legend within the jazz community.  With the accompanying song book mounted on my music stand, having my lead (solo) part written out for me, I then put the “Music Minus One for Duke Ellington” record on.  This contained all the necessary background music, which consisted of strings, piano, percussion, etc. for each particular song on the record.  Then, I was free to play the solo (lead part) of each of those particular songs, such as, “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”, and other fun songs composed by Duke Ellington.

Although I was within the comforts of my small bedroom, I actually felt like I had a live band all around me, accompanying me as best as they could.  They were there to support me, making me look good.  It was all about me.  This was my world, and the other “bandmembers” were just in it.

The following year, Mom bought for me the “Music Minus One” record for “Hits by Hal David and Burt Bacharach”, with its accompanying song book for the lead part.  This record included all of the background music for these well-known pop composers for many of their various hits, many of them which they wrote for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the Carpenters, and Dionne Warwick, among others.  I especially enjoyed playing the lead or solo for the songs on this record as the strings, keyboards, and percussion wonderfully supported me in the background.  I was free to be the soloist within my wonderful bedroom, free of any outside world distractions.

The company, Music Minus One, was begun in 1950.  If you're interested, today, they have an informative website where you can also order products, it being:

Now, for the icing on the cake, here's my chance to "toot my own horn". Literally. 
J  By the time I arrived into the 8th grade, I was seated as the 1st chair for Trumpet in the New York Junior High School All-State band, thus, encompassing the whole state of New York.

By this point I was interested in becoming a professional trumpet player.  But, then in high school, I ultimately became obsessed with the primo rock group, Led Zeppelin, which changed my focus of taste in music.  By the way, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin.  With such a warm, vivid and amiable personality and demeanor, I am convinced that he is the world’s absolute nicest guy!

This all brings me to my Feldenkrais practice of today for working with musicians.  I work with these performers who often times have pain or discomfort in the back, neck, shoulder, and wrist areas.

Feldenkrais sessions are good in that they allow someone (a music student in this case) to "have options" .. to be able to have variety ... to not get unnecessarily stuck in structure or dogma.  The regimented, I would like to think good intentioned, music teacher may say that a student needs to, for instance, stand in one particular "correct" posture.  They may also unnecessarily deliberate that a student's mouth embouchure must contact the mouthpiece in one particular way, or that the student's arms must be positioned in a certain way, or that a student is to stand in a certain way - that they are to never slouch, etc.

Although this might be an ultimate deliverable to attain, it may be adverse, or work against you, if it is your direct primal interest to achieve.  You may wish to consider to possibly let the postures or stances form naturally around themselves after you first acquire the desired sound.  This way, you did not create the postures from some artificial means, with no “soul” behind it or backing it up.  Instead, your form naturally grew out from your skillfully attained prowess.  Rather than pre-set forms, this may all be unnecessary dogma.

[However, I will state that there is not necessarily any one formula.  For some, it may be ultimately productive to first go for the postures or stances, and to then subsequently allow the sound to emerge.  Hey, whatever works for you!]

Allow yourself to occasionally slouch, if you want to, as you play.  Don't worry.  Your body won't want to stay like that permanently.  Even slouching, if it is done all the time, rather than it being relaxing, will eventually become tiring.  And, after a while, your body will naturally want to get away from doing any slouching.  Allow me to say that if you find yourself all the time slouching, then, allow yourself the option of sitting more upright.  If you find yourself excessively slouching, you may want to ask yourself, "What is it that manifests for me to slouch?  Am I in need to rest my back?  Does the music I have selected to play manifest this?"

Whenever you're playing, allow yourself to do anything that you want, when you want to - provided that you don't hurt yourself or hurt someone else.

Here are just a few different fun variations for you to explore.  Stand on one leg as you play.  Stand on the other leg as you continue to play.  While keeping your feet planted on the ground, turn around about yourself as you continue to play.  That is, for example, with your feet in more or less one place, gradually twist the rest of yourself (from the ankles upward) to the left while continuing to play.  Or, go in the opposite direction, rather, twist yourself to the right as you play.  Look down at the ground while playing.  Allow yourself to gradually arch your back and neck to look upward as you continue to play.  When doing any of these variations, always stay within your comfort range. 

Have fun.  Discover and explore for yourself how you can make it fun.  Be creative.  Allow yourself to be creative.

When musicians schedule to see me for a Feldenkrais session, I welcome them to bring their instrument.  When they do, I have them play a few lines of music before, as well as after, the Feldenkrais session.  This way they have a “before and after picture”.  That is, they are able to directly transfer over the movement re-education experience from the Feldenkrais table work directly to their activity of playing music, and they have positive evidence and feedback of this.

As a musician, or someone who enjoys playing music, would you like to improve your prowess, dexterity, breathing, or be able to play with total grace and pleasure, without experiencing any pain or discomfort?  Feldenkrais sessions can help make you more aware of your habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities and to expand options for new ways of moving while increasing sensitivity and improving efficiency.

Please feel free to call me at tel. no. 310-395-1952 to schedule an appointment.

All the best to you,

Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
www.drlinspeer.com www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com
"Health Is All that Matters!"

James Speer