Not very long after I was born, when I was first able to crawl, all I wanted to do was get to the piano, pull myself up, and bang around on the keyboard. I wish I could report that I picked out lovely tunes, but all I did was bang. Even so, it was evident from early childhood that I was heading toward a lifelong love of music and a career as a classical concert pianist.
I spent much of my childhood practicing and absorbed in music. I loved every minute of it, and it never occurred to me to stop or go do something else. I was also already playing little recitals throughout my childhood and occasionally playing a concerto with an orchestra. It surprised no one when I eventually won a scholarship and went to Juilliard.
However, at Juilliard my carefree enjoyment of music-making came to a screeching halt when I hurt my right hand playing with some bad habits I’d picked up, attempting to stretch my pinky a bit too far out of my comfort zone. I barely got through the rest of my education, and I was miserable being in so much pain. I recognized the severity of the pain was going to end all hopes for a career if I didn’t figure something out.
I began to explore how to heal my injury. This search, for help with the extreme discomfort in my hand, is where my journey began, the journey that has brought me to my current vocation. Fortunately, I found a wonderful teacher who observed my playing technique and explained what I was doing to wreck myself. Almost immediately, miraculously, the pain stopped and has never came back. But now I really was hooked, and even more than hooked, I was utterly intrigued.
Many musicians become injured, and they do so mostly because the physical pedagogical training for our instruments is hopelessly ignorant, like something out of the dark ages that has never been reexamined and modernized. Soon, I was helping my fellow musicians who had suffered some form of injury due to improper playing technique.
Along the way, I fell in love with a wonderful man, also a musician. We played together for many years, enjoying life and each other, and eventually, our three children. I was still teaching as much as I could, and began to explore various healing modalities, mostly out of curiosity, but also because I was always open to whether other modalities had practical information that might help my students. I researched a wide variety of healing techniques.
I became interested in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, a Ph.D. physicist with an interest in biomechanics, who also happened to hold a black belt in Judo. Feldenkrais said, “Nothing is permanent about our behavior patterns except our belief that they are so.” After a four year course of study, and through my extensive training with some of the finest living practitioners at the Feldenkrais Institute and elsewhere, I became a certified Feldenkrais practitioner. I also spent time studying many other modalities, and a full list would be very long. While all of it was a big influence in my work, I continue to come back most frequently to Feldenkrais.
While simple curiosity and a desire to learn propelled me forward, it coincidentally became apparent that I had a huge personal need to learn all I could about stress reduction, as one by one, family members were diagnosed with various mental illnesses.
For many years my life was a roller coaster, with mental health dramas popping up regularly, most often unexpectedly and unpredictably – as if such dramas have any predictability at all. I was still teaching my music students, but it gradually began to occur to me that other families coping with family members with mental illness might also benefit from and utilize all I’d learned. I began teaching small group classes and after some rewarding successes, I began to teach in a university, where I had the opportunity to work with larger groups.
Who would have thought that a concert pianist would morph over a lifetime into a stress-reduction coach, but that is exactly who I am today. And this is what I have to offer other families who, like my family, have had to deal with the traumas and everyday challenges of mental illness.