The Moving Musician
My name is Josh Schreiber Shalem. I am a musician and Feldenkrais teacher working in the greater Boston area and thoughout New England. I love helping musicians and anyone else who is interested in learning to move more freely and effectively, to overcome and avoid injury, and to discover and express their most authentic selves.
Many healers will promise you that they have the answers to your problems. That’s not my style. Instead, I promise you that I will help you ask the questions which will lead you to your own answers. Sure, I have my own ideas about optimal movement, developed over close to two decades of study, teaching and observation, and I will gladly share those ideas with you. But these ideas will be of no use to you unless, and until, they become your ideas about yourself.
This is why the bulk of our time together will be spent with you paying attention to how you move, developing skill as your own authority on what is right for you.
The Feldenkrais Method has been my path back to musicianship after injury, and has remained my path as an active musician.
In the mid-1990s, as I was finishing my undergraduate as a cellist at Bennington College, I began experiencing discomfort in my wrists and fore-arms as I played. Within a year or so, I couldn’t even hold a pen in my hand without pain, let alone play the cello. The following decade began with trips to various doctors from both Western and Eastern traditions, and progressed to studies in the Alexander Technique, Tai-Chi and Chi-Gung, and finally, the Feldenkrais Method, as I gradually found my way out of injury and towards mastery. I now hold a Masters in Early Music Performance from the Longy School of Music, and am active as a professional musician.
Along the way, I have found that this work is about more than being comfortable with your instrument, or avoiding / recovering from injury (though it is the best that you can do for either of those). Every single musician I have worked with, be they string players, wind players, keyboard players or singers, has discovered immediate improvements in the quality of sound, agility, and – perhaps most importantly – musical phrasing and expression. (More on this here, or check out this issue of SenseAbility for some articles about practice of the Feldenkrais Method for musicians).
Since the early 2000s I have helped hundreds of people through private lessons, weekly classes and numerous workshops and retreats exploring diverse aspects of human movement and perception.
I have taught musicians using the Feldenkrais Method at the New England Conservatory, the Longy School of Music, and the Berklee College of Music, where I currently coordinate the annual Richard Ehrman Memorial Feldenkrais series. I have also taught Feldenkrais at Amherst Early Music the Viola da Gamba Society summer Conclave, and am on the faculty of the World Fellowship Early Music Week as both Feldenkrais teacher and music coach.
I love working with musicians one-on-one, coaching ensembles, or in my regularly scheduled classes and workshops. Contact me if you might be interested in any of those options!
Hi josh I didn’t know that quitting cold turkey would be such a problem. I never thought of it before and now feel a bit guilty for taking a leave of absence from music joel
It was good to talk to you the other day! And I’m sorry if I caused any increased anxiety – clearly you have enough going on right now. I’d like to take a moment to clarify my comment here, because I think it might be useful for other people in your situation.
I told you when we spoke that I didn’t think it’s a good idea to simply stop making music while dealing with an injury, because I think we musicians don’t do well when we aren’t able to express ourselves musically. I’d like to add a few important modifiers to that. Certainly, pushing through an injury with a full workload (whatever that means for you) can make it very difficult to change the way you’re moving. But not everyone can figure out how to fit a break in their lives. I think you are fortunate in that you’ve been able to do that.
But more crucially, I strongly believe that you are the most important authority on this sort of question. Don’t let me, or anyone else, tell you what you should do. What I would invite you to do instead is to start developing your capacity for evaluating what works for you – from the way you turn your head or move your hand to the choices you make in your life.
When getting advice like this, I’d urge you to ask yourself: “how do I feel right now? Do I feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself, or does something feel like it’s not serving me?” Then think about the advice you’re getting, and ask yourself “does that feel like it might serve me better?” Once you learn how, you can literally feel in your body whether you like this idea or not (though the body’s answer is not always straightforward! Sometimes we can feel with clarity that we need to take a step into the unknown even as we feel anxiety around that choice!).
In Awareness Through Movement lessons, we often do an action in our imagination before we do it in space. There are many reasons for this, but I think one is so we can feel how we might go about it, and begin to refine the action before we launch into it with all our confusing habits. That way, we can pay better attention to how we do it, and whether the way we are carrying out the action serves us. Then, as we begin the action, and once we complete it, we evaluation (even on a subconscious level) whether it served us well or not, and are able to do it better the next time.
With all that in mind, I’d invite you to ask yourself: “How do I feel in this break I’m taking right now? Might I feel more alive and have a better outlook if I were making music in some capacity, or is it better right now to feel like I’m taking care of myself by taking a break?”
Then, with whatever action you take, continue to evaluate not just whether it feels like the right choice, but also how you’re doing it. To be much more concrete about it: some people find that the right thing for them is to spend twenty minutes a day makins slow long tones, or playing very simple music while they pay close attention to how they’re moving. Others (such as myself at first) find that to be frustrating and pointless – more a tease than a feeling of moving forward. I often recommend that musicians take up singing, and that singers spend time with an instrument. And some people do find that completely letting go of music for a time is the best course of action.
As I said in the post above, I don’t think my job is to give you the answers to your problems. I see my job as helping you ask the questions which will lead you to your own answers.
Good luck, and keep in touch!