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Artist/Teacher Finds Relaxation, Grounding in the Feldenkrais Method

By Nancy Galeota-Wozny

The Feldenkrais Method was a natural progression for musician Janet Rarick. As an artist and teacher of woodwinds and professional development at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, she was already well acquainted with various practices in mind/body health. She first heard about the Feldenkrais Method through one of my students, Christina Jennings, a music student at Rice. Jennings had managed to play pain-free after several Functional Integration® and weekly Awareness Through Movement lessons. Jennings’ story piqued Rarick’s curiosity, and it wasn’t long before she tried a class for herself.

“I enjoyed the gentle quality of the class,” remembers Rarick.

The practice of moving with less effort and finding the path of least resistance is at odds with the music world.

“Musicians have compulsive and perfectionist tendencies. We need to be that way to examine the detail of the work we do. If you tell a musician to do it 5 times they will do it 20 times. They are wired to think more is more. Push it more and get it is the motto. We perform under stress and we have to be consistent. The Feldenkrais Method helps you to deal with that situation,” states Rarick. “Because we are small muscle athletes this is important.”

“What Feldenkrais does is help you to understand the direct path to a goal that is not always the best path. Sometimes indirect can be more powerful than direct. The Feldenkrais work shows that to you in a way that you can understand. You can’t make a mistake in a Feldenkrais lession. It’s OK to not be perfect. When you finish a lesson you feel relaxed and calm and you notice you are much more grounded.”

Rarick continued taking my ATM lessons at the Jung Center on a weekly basis. At the time she was playing in the Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera Orchestras, both of which have demanding schedules. She would get together with fellow Feldenkrais student and principal harpist Joan Eidman during the breaks and do lessons from memory. “We did lessons in sitting and standing, and found we were both re-energized and more relaxed after intermission.”

She found the work of such value that when she received a major grant to develop a website at Rice called Navigating Musical Career, she knew she wanted a somatic component. The website helps students consider topics like performance anxiety, career options, and health. In a brief video clip, Rebecca Clearman, MD, a renowned physician specializing in performing arts medicine, extols the value of the somatic disciplines of The Alexander Technique and The Feldenkrais Method.

“My reason for including this material is to show students why it is important to include somatic work in their artistic growth process – especially work like the Feldenkrais Method, which works with the mind and body. I think that having a strong recommendation from someone like Dr. Clearman emphasizes this point.”

Nancy Galeota-Wozny is a GCFT and a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Dance Magazine, Contact Quarterly, Somatics, Arts Houston, Houston Woman and other publications. She is a 2004 recipient of the Gary Parks Memorial Award for Emerging Dance Critics.

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