Alexander Technique can help musicians discover a new, lighter way of moving, by “letting awareness come to the level of sensation”. A Juilliard graduate, and the longest tenured professor of piano at West Chester University, Dr. Robert Bedford helps musicians and the general public perform more fluid movements through the teaching of Alexander Technique, a method that helps rid the body of any tension . Always having a fascination with natural and fluid movement of animals and babies, Dr. Bedford is one of the few performing artists worldwide who is certified as an Alexander Technique Teacher. Dr. Bedford combines his knowledge of music to help musicians reach their peak potential.
Dr. Bedford was first introduced to the Alexander Technique as a young professor at West Chester University. His early teaching reflected his conservatory training, which focused on an effort to free stiffness in the wrists and arms of his students. Alexander’s research in the field of human technology is documented in his 1932 book, ‘The Use of the Self’. 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,”
Alexander’s work focuses on improving coordination through highly efficient movements of the entire body. lt is not strength training, though it does improve strength; it is not stretching per se,. It increase one’s awareness of lengthening and opening the body. “The Alexander Technique aims to restore 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 (see, ‘Gravity Baby’ utube). 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.
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 pianist may find her hands are lighter on the keyboard and she no longer tires as easily after many hours of practice. An office worker may find that his neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are diminished after several sessions with an Alexander Technique 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. With his own style of teaching the Alexander technique, he tailors it to each students’ needs.