TEACHING ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
Dr. Bedford combines his expertise as a professor and concert pianist with certification in Alexander Method to help musicians excel. He is one of few performing artists worldwide certified to teach the Alexander Technique. Click here to learn more about more about Dr. Bedford's Alexander Technique practice »
- is the most powerful tool to improve your overall coordination, reawaken your natural kinesthetic sense, and activate your involuntary anti-gravity response
- restores your most natural coordination and allows you to play your instrument freely without strain
- allows musicians to practice and perform -- for hours! -- without pain!
How does a baby move? Naturally and fluidly, with little thought about the “how” involved and an innate desire to find balance. It is that earliest ease of movement that most adults have forgotten – and that Robert Bedford seeks to restore, specifically in musicians.
“I was always fascinated by the movements of animals and babies and of well-coordinated people in general, as well as movements exhibited by outstanding performers,” says Bedford, a Juilliard graduate who has taught piano performance at West Chester University for more than 40 years.
He is one of the few performing artists worldwide who is also certified as an Alexander Technique Teacher. That combination of skills means Bedford is trained to help musicians reach a new technical level, even reach peak performance and help others discover a new, lighter way of moving, by “letting awareness come to the level of sensation” as F.M. Alexander explained.
Alexander’s research in the field of human technology is documented in his 1932 book The Use of the Self, which explains the Alexander Technique. His work focuses on “improving coordination through a better understanding of how the head/neck/torso relationship functions optimally in adults, as it does when we are very young,” says Bedford.
“As a young professor of piano during the 1960s and ’70s, Bedford’s early teaching reflected his conservatory training, which was basically an effort to free stiffness in the wrists and arms of his students.” That eventually brought Bedford into contact with the Alexander Technique.
Alexander’s work focuses on improving coordination through highly efficient movements of the whole body. It is not strength training, though it does improve strength; it is not stretching per se, though it does increase one’s awareness of lengthening and opening the body.
“The Alexander Technique restores natural coordination, reawakens a person’s natural kinesthetic sense, and activates the involuntary anti-gravity response [balance],” says Bedford. Which brings us back to the image of a baby discovering how his limbs can support and propel him.
According to Bedford, “natural hydraulics” is the systemic system that allows us to bring ourselves from sitting to standing and back again – movements seen at their purest in the first acts of a toddler seeking to stand on two feet. Using the Alexander Technique, Bedford can bring to students an understanding of how to “integrate to coordinate” all parts of the body so that such movements become more natural, more efficient, with less stress on joints, and fewer strained muscles. For example, in the process from sitting to standing, Bedford guides the student’s head, neck and torso to focus the student’s attention to a particular area of the body – and where it is in space – to encourage lightness, as he asks the student to match the energy he’s using. The resulting sensation is a more effortless method of standing and sitting.
Bedford notes that anyone can benefit from the Alexander technique – not just musicians. Each person has a different experience of movement, and each person who uses the Alexander Technique will come to a different but significant result. A musician may find her hands are lighter on the keyboard and she no longer tires as easily after hours of practice. An office worker may find that his neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are diminished after several sessions with an Alexander teacher. A mother may find a new and effortless way to lift her baby.
Bedford enjoys the sense of discovery students have during their sessions and says there is often a lot of laughter.
“I created my own particular style of teaching the Alexander Technique to musicians as well as to the general public. I teach it differently to each student, always adhering to basic principles, although each student will ultimately develop his or her own unique process. Some Alexander Technique [music] students tell of almost overnight freeing up of the whole playing mechanism. Others express skepticism at first but are willing to experiment often, seeing the Technique as gentle and non-threatening.”