In 2000, I was practicing many hours trying to learn quickly a piece of new music for solo piano with many large chords. As a result of contorting my hands to accommodate these chords, one of which I recall requiring the thumb and fifth finger to reach an 11th on black keys while the second finger played a white key while bent in half to avoid the fallboard, I was awakened from sleep a few nights before the scheduled performance by painful throbbing in my left hand. I ended up needing to cancel that performance. I tried using ibuprofen, getting massage therapy, and resting, but within a few weeks, it became a clear that I was going to need to cancel all rehearsals and concerts for the foreseeable future.
In the months that followed, I found that I could “survive” non-classical work where I could tailor the content of my playing to the limitations of what I could do with only (!) occasional discomfort if I exceeded my limits. I would play anything where I didn’t have to read a specific part, from big band jazz, to polkas and funk, until I felt I could add reading work again. Finally, nine months later after the initial pain, I thought perhaps I’d rested enough to accept an invitation to perform a new classical work. Within one week, I was fully back to the full pain levels.
In desperation, I started reading any online accounts I could find of injured pianists who found help, and stumbled upon one convincing testimonial by someone who overcame an extreme case of tendinitis through studies with Edna Golandsky. The things I read about Edna’s teaching really resonated with me. It sounded like a path to what I was looking for in my playing, even before the injury. For example, I had been struggling to get a bigger, clearer tone for about a year prior to the pain. And, I am now sure that the methods I was employing to try to get a fuller sound had primed me for the injury that I thought was merely attributable to the stretching for large chords in that one piece.
I called Edna Golandsky the next day and scheduled my first lesson. At that first lesson, although I was only learning to play a single note at a time, I was astonished by the tone that was possible without sensing I was doing any physical “work” at all. It was even more of a shock to me that this physical approach was actually decreasing the pain while I was playing. In the weeks that followed, it was amazing to me that anytime I got some pain doing a normal daily activity like reading a book, I could go to the piano and practice the pain away! After a series of additional weekly lessons, I reached a point that the pain simply never returned again.
As wonderful as it was to be able to play pain-free again, in time it became clear that overcoming injury was just a tiny part of the benefit of my studies with Edna. My tone continued to improve. My virtuosity increased to levels I could never have imagined before the injury. Previously, I remember thinking I just didn’t practice enough to get past the limitations I had in terms of what difficult passages I could negotiate. But, my studies with Edna have allowed me to be able to analyze virtually any passage causing difficulty and unlock the solution to executing it with ease and comfort. As an improviser, my creativity seemed to open up as my playing improved. And since the sense of ease allowed by this physical approach to technique is so universally applicable to all styles of music, I gained the confidence to move freely across genres to play with anyone whose music I loved as a listener. From becoming part of the avant-garde jazz, improvised and New Music performing communities in the northeastern US and Europe, to joining one of my all-time favorite bands from the US Southwestern desert with their unique blending of psychedelic/folk/country/rock styles, Edna’s teaching absolutely allowed me to make musical fantasies and dreams come true for me.