First of all, I would like to thank Edna for her kindness and her support during the year I spent in New York (from 2014 to 2015). I would also like the thank her for her deep understanding of the Taubman work and her capacity to guide me through the learning process.
My name is Antonin, I’m 25 years old and I’m from a small town in the french part of Switzerland called La Chaux-de-Fonds. I began to play the piano at the age of 5. In 2009, right after high school, I decided that I wanted to study jazz piano in University. I spent two years in Germany at a private music school to prepare myself for the Bachelor entry exams of Lucern.
After a few month of practicing more than I did during primary and secondary school, I began to feel pain in my forearms and a lot of tension in my hands and shoulders. First, my teacher told me that it was normal because I was playing more and my body had to adjust. So I continued to practice, which only made the pain worse. I saw a doctor, and the diagnosis was clear: I had tendonitis in both arms, and I had to take a two month break from playing piano.
Full of hope that it would be resolved by a two month break, I returned to playing, but as soon as I would play, the pain would come back. I asked my piano teacher and he tried to give my advice, but nothing helped. I spend the next 3 years searching for something or someone who could help me recover so that I could play the piano again without pain.
I went to see many kinds of practitioners: physiotherapists, massage therapists, doctors, and even psychotherapists. Some of it helped a little; some of it made it worse. But none of them could really tell me what I was doing wrong or could help me improve my situation.
In 2011, I was admitted to the Jazz Department of Lucern’s Music University, in pain but motivated. There also, my piano teacher couldn’t help me. Soon after beginning my studies, I had to take another break. I was still going to see different people trying to find a solution. I couldn’t really play more than half an hour a day without being in pain.
Slowly, I lost the joy and the pleasure of playing the piano. Every experience at the keyboard was associated with pain. I was still hoping to find help somewhere, but after my second year in Lucern, pretty much all my motivation was gone. I decided to take a whole semester off. At that point, my uncertainty about one day being able to play piano without pain spread to other parts of my life. I was feeling lost, not knowing what to do next and thinking about giving up music for something else. After seeing so many different people and hearing so many opinions, I wanted to find answers myself. Did I love music enough to keep going in that direction? Was it worth it to keep searching for help? Was music and the piano important enough to keep struggling? What did I want in life?
Among other things, I began to realize that my struggle was helping me to see more clearly. If I rose to the occasion, this challenge was an opportunity to go further and know myself a little more. Wanting to be alone and have time to find answers, I went to to a valley called Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas, for one month. There, I spent time hiking on my own and questioning myself. After some time, and thanks to life, I did find an answer. At the end of my trip, I was feeling supported from within myself about my decision to study and play music. Feeling clear, I returned to Lucern.
Doing some research one day, I typed “Piano Technique” into Youtube. I found a documentary about the work of Dorothy Taubman called “The Choreography of the Hands.” I wrote to Edna Golandsky, who suggested that I see a teacher in Berlin who is familiar with the Taubman work and could probably help me. During the next semester, I traveled to Berlin every two weeks to take lessons. I felt that I had found something truly helpful. After this semester, I felt the need for a more profound understanding of the Taubman technique. I was feeling better, but many things weren’t improving and pain was still there. I decided that if I could study with Edna, I would go to New York and study with her for a year. She agreed, so I went.
There began a very precise and focused practice. During this period of my practicing, I learned patience and to trust that short but substantial amount of work can be way more efficient than long but distracted practice sessions. Learning new ways to move required a lot of attention . As soon as I would get a little tired, I would notice the old habits coming back.
Things were improving concretely. I was beginning to feel confident in the fact that, in the near future, I could play my instrument without any pain. Each time that I had a question or was uncertain, Edna would give me a clear answer and have me practice exactly what I needed to work on.
On the side, having trouble letting go of tension, I was going to see a massage therapist that was practicing Structural Therapy. This was also a great help to me because it showed me a way of moving more freely. After each visit, my body would feel repaired and new, a great combination with what I was learning at the piano.
The situation was improving, and after a couple of months, I began to learn a classical piece. Being able to transpose what I had learned into written music felt like a big step. At that point, I was no longer in pain and playing was feeling better and better. Pretty quickly, we moved on to jazz, looking at chords and licks. Under Edna’s guidance, playing was feeling much easier and my fingers, hands and arms were feeling solid on the keys.
The year passed as things continued to improve. Happy to have an opportunity to solidify these improvements: I subscribed to the Golandsky Institute’s Summer Symposium at Princeton University. It was an unforgettable experience. On a beautiful campus, people from all around the world gathered to attend lectures, masterclasses, concerts and private lessons. It was amazing to meet so many people that were practicing or/and teaching the Taubman Technique. In a short time I made a lot of progress and my piano technique became even more conscious and fluid. I was also realizing that I wasn’t an isolated case. There were many other people that faced the same difficulties, the same uncertainties, which they were also able to overcome with the help of the Taubman Approach.
In August 2015, full of new material and free of pain, I returned to Switzerland. I’ve spend the last year able to attend all of my University courses, feeling good practicing piano freely for myself, playing music and concerts.
To this day I am very grateful for my experience with the Taubman Approach. It was the solution to my problems at the piano. Edna has been an amazing support to me through the whole process. I am inspired to continue to learn, motivated by the knowledge that my playing can have an even greater sense of ease and fluidity.