How legendary record producer Tony Visconti became an Alexander Technique teacher

Barry emails: Luke:

Here is a short passage about Alexander Technique which I found in the autobiography of legendary record producer Tony Visconti.
Visconti was a London-based American who now lives in New York I believe. He was instrumental in launching the careers of David Bowie and Marc Bolan of T Rex amongst many others. He has also worked with Paul McCartney and many other famous names.

I include two PDFs of the relevant passages from his book. Might form the basis of a posting for your blog, of which I’m a keen reader I might add.

From: Tony Visconti: The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

Since my twenties, I had been having problems with my lower back, all too frequently putting it ‘out’. I’d trusted chiropractor ever since one had cured me of bedwetting when I was eight years old. In my teens I had migraine headaches and another very gifted chiropractor not only cured them instantly but, as a side project, also turned me into an agnostic. In the 1980s I went down with full-blown sciatica and received treatment from an acupuncturist and osteopath. I accepted that I had a ‘bad back’, a situation that all my therapists confirmed. I noticed that since I had started Tai Chi my back always felt great during my sessions, but I could never connect that feeling to every day walking around. In 1991, when moving house from New York City to New City, I lifted a heavy box of CDs and felt a rip in my lower back; I was in agony and had to go to bed but no amount of rest brought relief to the pain. May called a local chiropractor and made an appointment for the next day. It took almost 45 minutes to crawl from the bedroom to the car. I spent six slow months in recovery at the hands of the chiropractor and got progressively better, but something was gnawing at me. I didn’t really believe I had a ‘bad back’, but felt I was doing something ‘wrong’ whenever my back went ‘out’.

On a trip to London, I was browsing around Foyles, the huge bookstore on Charing Cross Road. I bumped into a pile of books and one fell on my toe. It was a book on the Alexander Technique; I’d heard about it before but had written it off after my Tai Chi teacher gave it a bad rap. Leafing through the book, I saw what I had been thinking: back injuries are a result of not using the mechanics of the body correctly. I bought the book and finished it on the plane journey home. I mentioned it to my masseuse, Rhonda Care, that I would love to learn the technique and she told me she studied singing with an Alexander Technique teacher. A few days later I took my first lesson with Martha Bernard in her home in Chelsea, New York City. Within five minutes I was beginning to have ‘eureka’ moments; it all made perfect sense. I could clearly see the mistakes I was making when I lifted heavy objects. I took a total of 20 lessons with Martha and by the sixth I had become evangelistic about ‘the work’ (as it was named by F.M. Alexander). I knew I wanted to become a teacher myself. When I told Martha, her eyes rolled.

“Tony, my training was very hard and I am now doing graduate training with a second teacher. Are you sure you want to put yourself through all that?”

I insisted I did and at another lesson she told me that there was a sudden vacancy at her teacher’s school. Soon I was being interviewed by Thomas Lemens, head of the Institute for the Alexander Technique (IFAT) in Katona, New York. I passed his requirements and even took a lesson from him. As wonderful as Martha was, I could tell the difference; if this was a martial art, then Lemens was a ‘grandmaster’. I started school in September 1992. Normally at other schools 1,600 hours of training were required to get certification; Lemen’s standard was much higher and expected 2,400 hours of training with him. And that’s what I did for four years.

…We trained for three solid hours, no breaks. In the first year of training I wasn’t permitted to do hands-on work until the last month or so, Thom and the senior students would work on me. In the fourth year I was not only working on my fellow students, I was also teaching volunteer members of the public who came in for lessons, we called them ‘bodies’. Strictly speaking the Alexander Technique is not a therapy, it is an education, learning to apply the natural mechanics of the human body intelligently.

…My back never went ‘out’ again. Quite simple it has been life changing.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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