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A failed operation on my ankle some 22 years ago led me to develop what I now practice as a matter of course with my students and pupils. The doctors were certain at the time that I would only be able to walk with a frame. They issued me with a disabled person’s pass and told me as I left the hospital that I could now park in front of any store I liked.
Since hiking and playing concerts were and have remained an important part of my life, I sought solutions over and beyond the "rehabilitation measures."
I began experimenting with all manner of things in order for instance to restore my balance. Since I couldn't stand unsupported, my attempts were limited to holding firmly onto a cupboard with two hands. I noted all the things that changed then, if only to a minor extent. But this gave me so much encouragement I began to experiment with my students. In this way I first became a good observer, because ultimately I wanted to know what would happen. Would that be able to help me?
Pretty soon it was no longer just me that was the focus of all this, but also the way my pupils and students developed. Not until perhaps five or six years ago did I start to use air-filled cushions myself, so as to help me get my balance. But most of these cushions were not really suitable. They were too slippery, too small, did not hold the air in, or the material simply smelled awful. Yet with time I gained a feeling for them and found ever better cushions that were increasingly suitable.
At first my new students and likewise their parents were "amused" and curious... as to whether I meant it all seriously... ?! Today it all goes without saying, and everyone can see and hear the benefits – in individual tuition, in chamber music, and in orchestra work – once the player's sense of balance is stabilised.
And: in the meantime I have even come up with a fantastic solution for very small children: small cushions with which they can shift their balance backwards and forwards and play, even in different times, or simply stand on and find their balance.
Over the years I have been fascinated to see how much faster pupils develop on their instruments when right from the outset they are encouraged to personally investigate the coordination of their arms and legs and their movements. And they love it! It’s great fun. And who would have thought: they see the sense in it, without anyone having to explain it to them.
I was really amazed to see that it is never too late to embark on this: we seem to have an enormous ability to catch up with things we have neglected, if we simply do them! One can really see that from all of the pupils who come to my courses, from students and even older people who also often find it hard to grasp what quality of sound they can attain and how much easier movements become when their vestibular system is well developed. Trained and imposed movements are gradually replaced by new ones that suit their bodies and the music.Luckily now, many years after I commenced my experiments, I am increasingly able to try this out for myself. I never collected my disabled person’s pass. Today I can walk easily and once again climb high mountains with a passion. Obviously my experiments are not solely responsible for this. But in all probability I can say that a big contribution was made by my curiosity in trying out new and uncustomary things.