GRSM, PGCE, MSTAT (Graduate of the Royal Schools of Music, Post Graduate Certificate of Education, Member of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique)
When Janet was very small, a passing gypsy remarked to her mother, “that child’s going to be musical!”.
This turned out to be true. Janet started on the piano – first with a few lessons from her great aunt at the age of four, then with ‘proper piano lessons’ from the age of nine. However, she always had a feeling that the piano somehow wasn’t quite her instrument. When she eventually encountered a violin (on top of a cousin’s wardrobe), she immediately realised that this is what she had been searching for. (She had to wait about a year until she could begin lessons when she went to grammar school.)
Compared with many violinists, this was a late start. However, Janet worked hard at the instrument during her teenage years – finally fulfilling her dream of being accepted into one of the top music colleges, the Royal Academy of Music in London, when she was 18.
The three year graduate course at the Academy was excellent musical training, and she later followed it up with a post graduate certificate of education at Padgate College in Cheshire.
However, in spite of being able to play the violin to an acceptably high standard, Janet was never completely happy with her playing. She felt she was putting unnecessary effort into playing in order to produce a satisfactory musical result, and longed to be able to play more easily and spontaneously.
Whilst at college she came across the Alexander Technique, which made her realise that (in common with many people) she was probably using her body rather inefficiently while playing. She also heard of a violin teacher who specialised in helping players of all levels of ability to play “without tension”. This teacher was Kato Havas: author of several books including A New Approach to Violin Playing and Stage Fright.
When Janet finished at the Royal Academy, she studied with Kato Havas for about two years – followed by further lessons and workshops with Kato until about 1980.
It was a radical approach. Kato persuaded Janet to “start again” as if she were a beginner – but after a few months she was starting to play at her former level again – only this time with far less hard work. In fact, so successful was the change that she began sometimes to have a sense that the violin was playing itself – a tremendously liberating experience!
In 1977 Janet returned to live in Cheshire (Warrington), where she took a PGCE course and taught the violin in schools for four years, and also privately – basing her teaching on Kato Havas’s approach. At this time she played in the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra, in classical chamber ensembles, and did occasional professional orchestral work in the Manchester area.
Meanwhile, she developed further interest in the Alexander Technique: a method of (re-)education that teaches people to use themselves more efficiently in all tasks. (This is not just for musicians; although many musicians use the Technique.) From 1983, Janet trained in London to teach the Alexander Technique, qualifying to do so in 1986.
At this point she moved to Chester, where she began teaching both the Alexander Technique and the violin. She has two children. In addition to her private teaching in Chester, she has been employed by the Royal Northern College of Music to teach the Technique to students there (1991-5), and she teaches the violin in two local schools. She enjoys performing classical music when she has the opportunity, and enjoys jazz. She sometimes runs group workshops and introductory talks in AT. She continues to teach both the violin/viola and the Alexander Technique.
You can visit her Alexander Technique website at www.chesterATstudio.co.uk