My earliest technical training was in the tradition of the finger independence and stretching exercises that are far too familiar to most pianists. However, I eventually studied with a teacher who encouraged a technique that resulted in less stress to the body. This approach involved much relaxation and was a welcome change from the finger isolation of my earlier playing. For a number of years, I believed that this relaxed approach would prevent future injury and satisfy my needs as a pianist.
Unfortunately, as years passed I became less satisfied with my tone production. My sound often seemed uncentered, particularly in passages of extreme speed. As a result of this dissatisfaction, I started making a transition back toward finger isolation.
Though this change provided a partial solution to the problem — extremely fast passages sounded much more precise — it also brought unwelcome side effects. My sound became rather harsh. I became aware that the lefthand's tone sounded much thinner than my right hand’s. I also noted that the fourth and fifth fingers of both hands could not match the resonance of the other “stronger” fingers. Like many other pianists, I began to use even more finger force to compensate for these deficiencies.
In March 2000, I was busy, but not unusually so, learning pieces for composers and accompanying instrumentalists. I generally spent between eight and ten hours at the piano each day. One week, I began learning a piece with many intervals of tenths and even a few elevenths, many of which also included a third note in the middle. (At that time, I naively took pride in not needing to arpeggiate the large intervals). Within the first few days, I began to experience an unusual pain in my left thumb. Focused on upcoming performances, I denied the pain until one morning when the pain woke me after only a few hours of sleep. I reluctantly postponed some
rehearsals while continuing to play others that seemed too pressing to cancel. But, within a few more days, the throbbing, which now spread throughout my entire left hand. After a few cycles of resting for a few days and returning to playing, which always resulted in more pain than the previous cycle, I decided that I would have to stop playing completely — at the time I thought I might need a few weeks or a month.
I was devastated. As a fast reader who often substituted for other troubled pianists on short notice, I now found myself unsuccessfully looking for people to replace me. I felt extremely sad about the many cancellations I made, especially in the cases of friends who I felt were counting on me to perform their compositions or accompany their college degree recitals during the following days and weeks. Thankfully, most were very supportive during that troubling time.
By December 2000, I was also beginning to experience pain in my right hand. After nearly nine months of frustration with the constant cycle of weeks of rest followed by failed attempts to play again without pain, I began to think I would simply never be able to survive as a pianist again.
One of the composers whose performance I canceled in March asked another pianist he knew if she could recommend anyone to help me. I spoke with her. Sarah Cahill gave me the phone number of Edna Golandsky. At the time, I did not know the significance this phone number would have for me. Later, while reading some injured pianist forums on the internet, I found a compelling testimonial to work Edna had done for the injury of Amy McLelland. I became very interested and searched for more information. After reading more about the work, my feeling was that I wished I knew about this work from the beginning of my playing life. The fundamental concepts made so much sense; I immediately believed this work not only would have prevented my injury, but also would have given me the tools necessary to play as I wished. I called Edna Golandsky.
At the first lesson, although I was only playing one note at a time, I was amazed — not only was there no pain while playing the keyboard, but the sound of all ten fingers was equal. Instantly, there were no “weak” fingers. I could barely believe it. The sound was fuller and more centered than I ever remembered producing before.
Now, after two years of studying with Edna, I find myself looking forward to each lesson with the same excitement I felt at those first lessons when it became evident that I would be able to play again. I am still continually amazed how perceptive Edna is to my movements. Sometimes I find it hard to believe the subtle level at which she is able to observe by simply watching and listening; it seems as if she is able to “feel” my movements better than I can. Also, when she demonstrates at the piano, she is somehow able to project the feeling of the movements such that I almost feel I am playing them myself. I have talked to many who agree with this when witnessing her lectures and master classes. One simply has to experience her work to believe it!
At this stage of my study of this work, I am playing more complicated passages with an ease of execution I would not have imagined before my injury. The sound is resonant, clear and even, though it doesn't feel as if I am physically “working” at all. Having seen Edna in numerous lectures and master classes, I eagerly anticipate working on entire works with her. It is not only that her knowledge of musical structure is equal to her knowledge of technique, but that, in her teaching, the two ultimately become inseparable, joining to yield a clear, expressive realization of compositions, unimpeded by limitation.
Although solutions to problems have not always been fast, I always feel encouraged by Edna’s presence. Her limitless patience and her own enthusiasm for this work are utterly contagious. Even though it was my injury that led me to find her, I feel an indescribable sense of gratitude for the whole sequence of events. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be involved with the work of this incredibly special person.