|June 15- 22||CONCORD, NH @ Concord Community Music School|
|July 6- 13||NORTHAMPTON, MA @ Smith College|
|July 21- 26||SALT LAKE CITY, UT @ Weber State University|
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TOWARDS TRANSCENDENT PIANO PLAYING
The greats don’t play as they were taught
In the late 1980’s Fraser’s teacher, Phil Cohen founded theLeonardo Project at Concordia University in Montreal to study exceptional performance in music, theatre and dance. He discovered one common factor uniting all the greatest artists:they don’t do as they were taught. The technique of a great performer transcends the approaches of standard pedagogy and can even radically oppose them. The project also found that qualities of transcendent performance can be analyzed, codified, and taught. Standard pedagogical regimes are a necessary preparation, but Cohen’s life work has been to cultivate that ‘something more’ needed to reach transcendence.
The transcendent artist uses his body differently
After a decade with Cohen, Fraser moved to Yugoslavia to begin another two decades’ close collaboration with Kemal Gekić, one of today’s top pianists. With Gekić, Fraser could observe transcendent technique first hand and understand its workings from the inside out. The transcendent artist uses his body differently: his subtler, more complex relationship to his physical self fosters the deeper expression of his artistic soul.
Return to the body to return to the pianistic Self
This return to the body characterizes the Feldenkrais Method of neuromotor re-education, which Fraser has also studied in depth. Moshe Feldenkrais loved radical ideas. But his seemingly strange notion that “the surest pathway to the soul was through the skeleton” actually makles sense: freeing the body of unnecessary tension allows the skeleton to come into clearer kinesthetic focus – the sense of self improves. And with improved skeletal alignments, the brain automatically reduces overall muscle tonus, facilitating easier, more effective movement – better use of self.
Synthesizing these various strands of thought and experience has made Fraser’s approach to piano technique both unique and global in its application: when we return to the body’s innate structure and function, we access the best of all the various pre-existing schools of piano technique – finger action, arm weight, pressure, relaxation etc. The aim is not invalidate our traditions but to integrate and finally rejuvenate them.
Pianistic improvements across the board
Through many years of playing and teaching, Fraser has found he can bring the qualities of transcendent playing to all his students, not only the most gifted. Acquiring the physical qualities of transcendent playing can transform the ability of even a beginner, yet promises a breakthrough to even the seasoned concert pianist.
The quality of transcendence
One Institute graduate describes her experience thus wise: “Transcendence implies an effortless, free, soaring technique that lets the pianist convey the meaning of the music with nothing between his intent and what is heard. Popular culture would call this ‘being in the now.’ In his lessons, Alan clearly articulates, demonstrates, and gives time for the student to experience how skeletal alignment can minimize muscular ‘work.’ For this, he draws on a lifetime of kinesthetic understandings about how the body works most smoothly, without hiccups or co-contractions that can make a passage ‘get stuck.’ A few hours of careful observant work with Fraser can end years of pain and frustration. Although this can be slow at first, once experienced, it’s never forgotten and the progress is exponential. In the end, you feel a sense of ‘floating’ that lets you subtly sculpt sound with ease.”
Meeting the challenge
A lesson with Fraser brings you face to face with unacknowledged habits that limit you, and shows you ways to free yourself from them. This can be a confronting experience, because, loath as we are to admit it, we are comfortable with what’s familiar and find it hard to accept the unfamiliar. But when Fraser’s dedication to moving beyond barriers is matched by your inner desire to do the same, magic can happen.
“I’ve never seen a more nurturing teacher. He offers all the knowledge, caring, encouragement, support and dedication students need to reach a new high in their playing.”
Canadian pianist Alan Fraser gives master classes and recitals worldwide and conducts ongoing research and refinement on the ideas put forth in his three books, The Craft of Piano Playing (also in DVD), Honing the Pianistic Self-Image, and All Thumbs: Well-Coordinated Piano Technique
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Christine Olson is a pianist and Alexander Technique teacher based in Northampton, MA. Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method are like two peas in a pod, so it was natural for her curiosity to be stimulated by Alan Fraser’s approach several years ago. She was wonder woman on-site liason and solo organizing committe for the inaugural 2011 Smith College Institute and continues to attend to all organizational aspects of the Institutes in Northampton.
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Billie Tuttle is a pianist and piano teacher long active in the Salt Lake City area. She earned a Master’s Degree in Musicology from Brigham Young University with a minor in Applied Piano. She has received teacher training in all seven levels of the Suzuki Piano Method and has been teaching that method for twelve years.
Prior to that she taught private traditional piano students for twenty years during which time she also received two levels of certification each in Orff Schulwerk, Kodaly certification and the Robert Pace Method which she used for teaching in a private school for six years. She and her students have attended many piano events such as master classes and ten-piano rehearsal/performances in California and Utah.-Billie attended the Alan Fraser Institute in Salt Lake City in both 2011 and 2012, and has now graciously accepted the role of onsite coordinator.
Concert pianist and pedagogue Kathryn Southworth first took part in the Alan Fraser Institute at Smith College in 2012. As head of the piano department at Concord Community Music School, she immediately saw the potential for Alan Fraser to have an impact on the local piano community. She is on-site liason and one-woman organizing committe for the Concord Institute.
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Sage Hall, Home of the Smith College Music Department
The first Alan Fraser Piano Institute was held at Smith College, and this continues to be the venue for the flagship Institute. Founded in 1871, Smith College boasts a long-standing reputation for excellence in education, especially the arts. The college has an unusual connection to the classical music world: composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s cousin taught biology here.
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The Browning Center of Weber State University is a state-of-the-art performing arts facility with a sumptuous concert hall and excellent practice facilities. The Institute will take place in Parry Recital Hall. Its excellent Steinway B and fine acoustics assure the highest possible level of artistic work at the Institute.
Founded in 1984, Concord Community Music School is New Hampshire’s largest community music school and among the 30 largest community arts schools nationally. Its mission is to foster a sense of community through music by providing the fullest possible array of musical experiences for people of all ages, musical abilities, and backgrounds.
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