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Coming Home

Since I’ve been in Champaign I’ve been warmly welcomed into the singing and bell choirs at St. John Lutheran. I’ve also played recorder on a couple occasions. Today was the last time I’ll be part of these groups before the Christmas holidays, and the director gave me a card and thanked me for my efforts. As I thanked him for graciously welcoming me, I mentioned that it felt like home. He thought that was such a nice thing to say, but it really made me think.

Church has been part of my life since I was young, and being in the balcony making music has been the biggest part of my church experience. Today I played two bell parts because my neighbor player was home sick. It was just like old times when I was directing our church chime choir and people were missing. Depending on who was gone, I often ended up with quite a collection of chimes. Today was easier, but challenging because it was for a service. Thankfully I only got lost twice!

When I think about the last year and a half, this experience felt so much like home. I’m away from all the familiar people and activities and keep busy with my studies and a part time job selling clothing. Both of those have involved huge learning curves! Showing up for practice at church has been familiar in this sea of newness! Even though the people around me are completely unfamiliar, we’re connected by the language of music, the skills we have in common, and our common goal of enhancing worship.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to actually coming home. Though I’ll bring my table and give friends and family some AT work, I’m really looking forward to letting all of this new learning percolate in my body and brain while I do something not as directly AT related like cooking, gathering with friends, reading something for fun, spending time with my husband. I’ll probably get to scoop some snow and do some cleaning as well!

This term has been challenging because it marks a new level for me. I’m considered the “senior teacher” in my course work, so that means I get to do things first (and make all the mistakes first!). I’ve been the teacher in some instances which means I’m responsible for actually knowing something that I make useful to someone else.

It also means that we’re learning directions for arms. These are secondary directions. The primary directions apply to the head, neck, and back. This term we focused on the spiral muscle structure of the torso, but legs and arms also have spiral muscle arrangements. The directions to the arms point out the spiral but, since the arms are plugged into both the front and back torso muscles, these directions lift the whole body up. It’s an amazing feeling of being suspended rather than just resting on the legs and feet. But it’s a complicated process to learn. And as I begin to see the results, my breathing has improved and singing is easier.

That’s what brought me to the Alexander Technique in the first place. I had incredible pain while singing—and I sang all day long with my students! The last couple weeks have been a revelation as I feel once again like myself when I sing, rather than like a collection of techniques and parts that I have to get working properly. Just in time for holidays that are filled with glorious singing. What a homecoming!

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