I am certain that being introduced to body awareness work at age 15 through lessons with German actress Wera Windel influenced my life a lot more than I knew at the time. Today I consider myself lucky that my older sister, who early decided to study voice and become a singer, needed to learn proper German.
Swiss people have their own language and speak Swiss German, so proper German is different. At age 6 or 7, the Swiss begin to learn our first foreign language without even knowing it: proper German. But we all have an accent, so my sister had to learn proper German to be a singer and of course, this starts with breathing, and breathing is related to body work.
I always will remember how I had a lesson every Monday evening between the ages of 15 and 20, starting with lying on the floor and breathing, imagining how with exhaling I would put a mattress of air under my back! I learned to feel and observe.
At 22, I developed tendinitis and my flute teacher at the time, Guenter Rumpel, suggested Alexander technique. I had the good fortune to study with Noam Renen in Bern and Zuerich, continued to increase my body awareness, and practiced with the flute hanging from the ceiling! I healed.
Once in the professional life as an orchestra player in St Gallen Symphony Orchestra, Switzerland, and Professor at Landeskonservatorium Vorarlberg, Feldkirch, Austria, I encouraged and taught my students to develop body awareness. The weekend one of my students was organizing for the entire flute studio a Feldenkrais weekend was the real revelation. I was hooked for life. Ruth and Heinz Gruehling, from Germany, taught us in two days how to roll and then sit upright with ease, just by using gravity. What an experience it was, when for the first time I understood gravity and was completely aware of how it works – to move with it and not fight it.
I decided to invite the Gruehlings regularly to Feldkirch and open the classes to the entire school. A few years later, the Gruehlings began to accept students to their own school to learn to teach the method they developed themselves, which was very related to Feldenkrais: Dynamic Integration. I did this training, as I wanted to be able to improve myself as well as to be able to help my students. I graduated after my first year in the USA, in 2002. Ever since then, I am happy to help 20 music students every semester at Florida State University to begin or continue their body awareness journey – I teach a class in Dynamic Integration every Thursday morning.
In addition to body awareness, I really like the philosophy of no judgment. This by itself has such a relaxing and balancing effect on the mind and body. Just lying on the floor playfully exploring movements and options/possibilities without any competition with others – no wrong and right – no imitation, is a truly freeing experience. The floor gives you the necessary feedback and you are allowed to interpret the spoken words as you understand them. You as an individual get a possibility to develop the sense of self.
For any musician the body is an instrument used to play the musical instrument. It is equally important to develop a good body awareness as it is to master your instrument and express your own musical ideas/feelings through it. This method helps you with all of these facets, and it influenced my teaching quite a bit. (See Pedagogy)