Balancing body and mind: Fiona Tree on the Alexander Technique

22 April 2024

The Alexander Technique, a powerful method for rediscovering our innate balance and coordination, has been a transformative force for musicians, performers, and anyone seeking greater well-being.

What is the Alexander Technique?

‘The Alexander Technique is a method that guides individuals toward regaining the natural balance and coordination. By unraveling tension and stress patterns, that often interfere with freedom of breathing movement, we empower students to express themselves more freely and enhance their stage presence.

Through keen self-observation, students learn to recognize ingrained stress patterns. We provide crucial tools to change these patterns, addressing performance anxiety and promoting ease. Additionally, we impart fundamental knowledge about how the musician’s body is designed to function optimally.’

Pandemic innovations: hands-free teaching

During the pandemic, I had the privilege of collaborating with a group of master teachers in the USA, led by Mio Morales. Mio’s innovative hands-free approach to teaching the Alexander Technique intrigued me. Traditionally, Alexander Technique involves hands-on guidance from the teacher, but this new method empowers students to make their own changes.

Instead of physical touch, we guide students through a series of graduated exercises or ‘etudes’. By directing attention and awareness, they uncover the origins of stress, contraction, and tension habits. This process gradually builds their confidence and knowledge, allowing them to become their own inner teachers.’

The hybrid course at the Royal Conservatoire

My course blends traditional Alexander Technique principles with this innovative approach. Roughly one-third of the classes are conducted online.

After 24 years of teaching at the Royal Conservatoire, I’ve witnessed remarkable results. The course is always evolving, and after three to four years of working with this new approach, I can confidently say that it has had a hugely effective and productive impact on our students. They learn far more, retain their knowledge better, and continue applying the techniques long after the course concludes. I sometimes see the influence of the classes reflected in fun or unexpected ways. Akiko Mik, one of my students, wrote a piece for 2 sopranos and 2 organists, inspired by some of the concepts and ideas we’ve been exploring together during this years’ Alexander Technique course. It was performed recently at the Orgelpark in Amsterdam, and at the concert I heard my own words sung back to me in concert form.’