Testimonials/Articles on Mary Spire's Practice of the Feldenkrais Method
Here is a delightful story about my experience with Leonard Berstein at the Tanglewood Music Center. I included it as part of the description for the advanced training-"How To Work Effectively With Musicians"
During a Master Class at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lennox, Mass, Maestro Leonard Berstein said to the conducting student "place your hands behind your back, close your eyes, imagine the sound and, conduct!" The student did as he was told - and the result was astonishing- a miracle in one minute! How did Lenny know what this student didn't yet know- about the music, himself and his own potential? Lenny's perspicacity was such that he could immediately see what was missing, or not yet available to the student, and provide him with insight and the tools to make profound changes- on the spot. After class one day I mustered the courage to ask him directly how he was able to pinpoint exactly what each student needed in order to perform to his potential.
He surprised me by answering" but this is what you do, as a Feldenkrais teacher" (I didn't know that he knew the Feldenkrais Method nor my work as a Feldenkrais ® teacher at the TMC). And, Lenny was correct-this is what we Feldenkrais teachers do. And, how do we know what to observe-see- with each musician? What tools can we give them to develop their potential as musicians and people? How can we be more effective as teachers?
In this two day advanced training you will learn skills specific to understanding and helping musicians improve their performance. You will fine-tune your ability to sense and feel, and imagine what it is to be a musician -a day in the life of a musician. You will learn to" pinpoint" what the student isn't aware of, or what he isn't doing yet- and provide him with relevant information to improve his performance skills and enjoy a full, pain-free and long career in music.
We will use dynamic, dramatic and effective ATM and FI lessons, designed especially for musicians; FI and ATM demonstrations with musicians playing their instruments; and video case histories. If you are a musician, bring your instrument!
I very much appreciated the FI that you taught on the video. It was of the best examples I have yet to see on a video or live. I found it mature, respectful, perceptive and functional. Your communication of the instruction, intention, and direction of the burgeoning outcome, was superb. You helped to guide her to understand precisely what, why and how her body was moving and being perceived by her while coming to a deep and subtle conscious awareness of herself, concretely revealing "Awareness Through Movement".
You took her through all the coordinates of lengthening (top up and bottom down) and rotation of her head, neck shoulder girdle, spine hips and knees. It was a stellar model.
Thank you very much for demonstrating your style generously, gracefully, and professionally, I will revisit and watch this FI many more times and continue to learn from it while keeping it in mind and emulating it.
I admire the way you work and if you had DVDs of FIs in that style I would want to avail myself of them.
Feldenkrais builds on a method that every singer is acquainted with: repeating actions until they become automatic and no longer require conscious effort. Singers use this for control of the tongue and palate, the larynx, the ribs and abdominal muscles. Feldenkrais applies it more broadly throughout the body. Working with the pelvis, chest and neck, allowing the whole body to take part in movements rather than restricting and localizing them, learning to stand strongly and quietly--all this has great benefit for a singer. I have also found that Feldenkrais work clears the mind and makes memorization and concentration easier.
- Allen Shearer, composer and singer
Since arriving in London, I have had some pretty rough days, back-wise, especially when it came to walking. So I decided this morning that I would take the 45 minutes to complete the recorded lesson you recommended prior to my departure. Mary, I can’t tell you how silly I felt. There I was dealing with serious back issues and you had me moving a single hand and fingers! Really!! I did it, but all the while I thought you must have made a mistake. My hand was just fine. My back was the problem. Nevertheless, I completed the lesson. I really couldn’t tell if it had made any difference, but decided to find out. I would make my way to the Charles Dickens Museum, which I knew would be tricky, and probably required significant walking. Would my back hold out? After two hours of travel that involved several blocks of walking I arrived at Dicken’s Bloomsbury neighborhood only to find the museum closed for repairs. But to my surprise, my back felt great. So despite my disappointment with the closed museum I was pain free. To me this was some kind of miracle…something to be celebrated. That lesson you recommended changed everything. I just had to share this with you, and can envision that knowing smile on your face as you read this email.
- S. A., Berkeley, CA
"I appreciate the “how” of Mary’s teaching. Her teaching praxis directly reflects the principles of the method, providing rich layers of experience and learning to her students. The classroom environment, instruction, feedback and progression through content, all coalesce to reveal dynamic applications with the method."
- Sarah M. Nemecek, MFA
Thanks so much for the great workshop. I came with a sense that I had reasonable ideas as to what would be more optimal for the musicians I see and have worked some with their instruments- but seeing what a master actually chooses to do was really the next step for me.
- Marsha Novak, GCFP, P.T.
“The following is a copy of an article published in the NSTA (National Spasmodic Torticollis Association) newsletter. I thought it may be helpful to other dystonia patients who might be interested in trying an alternative therapy called Feldenkrais. It has helped me immensely!”
- Joanne Volponi
From the Other Side
By Joyce Dye
I would like to share with you the story of one of our members who has successfully used an alternative treatment to improve her dystonic symptoms and with it, the quality of her life. Joanne Volponi first began experiencing symptoms in October of 1993. By February of 1994, she was forced to take a medical leave from her job. Like many of us, she saw numerous physicians, some of whom were unfamiliar with dystonia and decided her problem was psychological. Unwilling to accept this assessment, Joanne kept searching for answers. Eventually she was put on a variety of medications, including Artane and Ativan which worked best for her.
Quite by accident, she found information on a local teaching hospital bulletin board on the Dystonia Foundation and the NSTA. They led her to a doctor familiar with this condition who diagnosed her with segmental Dystonia affection her neck and jaw muscles. At this point, Joanne had trouble walking, eating and talking. She returned to work despite that and began biofeedback sessions. They helped her to relax and provided some small control over the spasming. BOTOX worked only initially for her.
Discouraged, Joanne kept searching. A chance visit with her mother to her mother's neurologist resulted in a referral to a Feldenkrais practitioner who had helped another of his patients with ST. In January, 1995, Joanne began seeing Mary Spire, a Feldenkrais practitioner in Berkeley, California, for twice weekly sessions.
Joanne began with individual sessions and a few group classes during the first year of treatment. With improvements, she gradually decreased the frequency of the lessons until, at this writing, she goes every three weeks. In May of 1995, she began using a counter to keep track of the number of spasms she had daily. She saw their number decrease from 300 or more a day in May to none in December. "I can now walk with my head relatively straight without the intense neck muscle spasms I once had. I still have neck muscle tightening that seems to draw my head down, but it is much easier to control now." Eating and talking are much easier, also. She no longer uses Artane and is on half the Ativan she was on. "All in all, the Feldenkrais lessons as taught by Mary Spire have given me back my life. I am not totally free of symptoms, but the ones I have now are minor compared to what I have had before. I highly recommend that anyone with dystonia or spasmodic torticollis give Feldenkrais a try."
Feldenkrais has proved helpful with central nervous system conditions like dystonia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. A typical Functional Integration session has the student lying on a table fully clothed. The practitioner then touches and moves the student's body in non-invasive ways that help communicate how you organize your body. "The intent of this touch is to explore your neuromuscular organization - your subconscious responses to touch and movement - and to have tactile, nonverbal conversation with your central nervous system about how you organize your body and your movement." Gradually the student learns to reorganize in new ways that allow for more expanded motor patterns.
*(This article was written in 1996. I recently heard from Joanne who reports that she is well and continues to work and enjoy her life. She does Feldenkrais ATM lessons from audio when she feels the need. She no longer has private lessons but we plan to have lunch and catch up. - Mary Spire)
For more info:
Joanne Volponi 510-294-3292 (w)
Mary Spire, Feldenkrais Practitioner
"Professional Feldenkrais Method practitioner serving San Francisco, Berkeley, Albany, San Rafael and other cities within Northern California."