Nadine André is a classical pianist and teacher who performs both as a soloist and chamber musician and teaches piano and chamber music at three institutions, including the junior department at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Here Nadine explains why she has decided to embark on one of the most comprehensive and demanding Pilates teacher training programmes in the world.
I frequently meet musicians who suffer from injury or debilitating, ongoing physical issues that prevent them from playing their instruments freely. In some cases, people who have dedicated their whole lives to music have to stop playing altogether. I find this incredibly frustrating and, until recently, I have never come across a method of therapy or exercise that is truly rehabilitative and that can address and fix the cause of these issues.
Don’t get me wrong, physical therapy sessions are great! They can be restorative, alleviate pain and improve well-being, however, it is rare that these sessions get to the very root of a physical problem and deal with fixing the issue in the WHOLE body, not just the isolated area. If the therapy does treat the whole body, the effects often wear off and the issue returns. Medical intervention frequently involves temporary treatments such as steroid injections into a joint and, while surgery is occasionally necessary, it can often be avoided, and should only be a last resort.
I have amassed so many questions about this over the years…
- Is playing the piano with ease really this difficult?
- Is practising the particulars on your instrument for endless hours really the best way to achieve a perfect state in performance?… Apparently not.
- Is there a form of exercise or therapy that can truly change the body, from the inside out?
- Is there a form of deep and comprehensive training I can do that isn’t medical that will enable me to help my fellow musicians?
- Is there a way of learning to be more integrated, where the mind can become much more closely connected to the body, but that also strengthens it? (I’m a huge fan of Alexander Technique and have had years of private lessons but, for all its virtues, it doesn’t address muscle weakness.)
After mulling over different possibilities and trying different forms of therapy and exercise to improve my own body, I have finally found what I believe is the perfect solution. I make this sound like I’ve given it the occasional thought… far from it. I’ve agonised over this, had sleepless nights on occasion, questioned my identity as a teacher and struggled with dealing with my own physical pain for years. This is a decision that I arrived at when several aspects of my life converged into one moment. Corny though it may sound, it was indeed an epiphany (and happened at about 2am last summer).
I discovered Pilates almost 6 years ago and I loved it. I received expert tuition from Sonja Fitzpatrick in Epsom, and once I’d had my light-bulb moment and decided to train as a Pilates teacher, Sonja encouraged me to do my research and try different methods. I knew that I wanted to train as true to Joseph Pilates’ method as possible and researching this lead me to Classical Pilates.
It was in February this year (2019) that I came across Kinetic Pilates in north London, and discovered that Rebecca Convey is THE UK teacher-trainer for Romana’s Pilates. I did some digging and found out that Romana was a devoted student of Joseph Pilates’, working closely with him and his wife Clara for years. After his death, Romana set up a teacher training programme with Clara that would ensure future teachers of his method stayed as true to his system and approach as possible. It seemed that this was as close as I would get to learning Pilates (or ‘Contrology’ as Joseph called it), as it was meant to be learnt.
After several weeks of lessons with Rebecca and James Palmer, another fantastic teacher at Kinetic Pilates, I noticed my piano playing start to change. My hands felt much lighter, my pelvis more stable and my whole body was more powerful. The technical issues I’d been dealing with for decades were melting away and I was playing with much greater ease. I knew that this was my path and felt certain that this teacher training method would enable me to fulfil my desire to help others.