Some time back I had the privilege to be “Artist of the month” in the Timani newsletter and as this was a decidedly new experience I thought I´d share it here, also since the questions of the interview brings up the topic of strain injuries and of having your passion linked to pain, which I think is a big and important topic.
Artist of the month: Miriam Hlavatý
Timani newsletter, March 2017
Did you ever suffer from pain when playing, or think that your body is against you? Then I highly recommend to read about the amazing Timani teacher Miriam Hlavaty in the interview below!
I admire Miriam for the passion she has for musicians’ possibilities to learn about the body and mind. She has already taught Timani at the conservatory in Tromsø and Performance psychology at the conservatory in Trondheim, as well as giving Timani courses in several countries. She is also an amazing composer, a Nutritious Movement instructor, a specialist in listening (hence her website www.thelisteningexperience.com), and she plays the piano with refinement, great sound and musicality. I am just very happy to have met this person and to have her teaching Timani. I highly recommend her teaching if you are considering taking a Timani lesson. Her next weekend course in Timani will be in Oslo on the 5th-7th of May. Don’t miss it:)
T: When did you begin with Timani?
I started practicing Timani in 2013 when I attended my first weekend course and signed up for the certification training.
T: How have you benefited from taking lessons in Timani?
At that time I suffered from several playing-related strain injuries and had all but given up on piano playing after having fought my way through a Bachelor and Masters degree at the Norwegian Conservatory of Music. The various physical obstacles had stopped me from pursuing a traditional career as a pianist but they had also forced me to become creative and find other possibilities, for instance in the world of contemporary music with its extended piano techniques, into experimental music and, as a lecturer, into the realm of musical perception and listening. This was a result of signing up for a course in Sonology which was taught at NMH by the composer Lasse Thoresen who later became my mentor during my Masters. All of this is today present in my work.
A friend of mine from the conservatory recommended that I try a weekend course in Timani. She had experienced some of the same strain injury difficulties as myself and knew how fed up I was with trying out every new cure that was on the market. Even so she succeeded in convincing me to give it a try. I remember I was very skeptical at first having experienced several disappointments earlier with other types of methods and systems. At the end of the weekend course everything had changed.
For the first time in 20 years I was given clear and understandable information which told me not only what I had been doing which had sustained the strain injuries and kept them returning again and again, but what was more important: I was given tools in the form of concrete anatomical, neurological and biomechanical knowledge on how to do things differently, along with exercises in order to make it possible for me to do things differently.
At the end of the weekend course I signed up for the certification-training. I very rarely take abrupt or impulsive choices, I’m usually the kind who needs to ponder things a lot but this was one of the few times in my life when I knew I was in the right place and that this was a moment and a chance not to be missed.
T: You are now a Timani Advanced teacher and have completed the three year certification training. Would you talk a little bit about how this has affected you?
Apart from recovering from the strain injuries I have finally found that which allows me to express what I need to express through my music, not by becoming the traditional pianist I thought I wanted to be, but by giving me access to the versatile and wondrous instrument that my body now is becoming in terms of playing and expressing music. Composing and experimenting with the instrument has also become a very important path for me.
Also, what I have gained through Timani has gone much deeper than mere technique and physical development.
Living with chronic pain and especially with pain which is linked to doing what you love the most affects you, physically and mentally. There is nothing which drains you more than having your greatest joy in life constantly associated with pain and discomfort. Living with constant and chronic pain also affects the endocrine system of the body. For a period of time I was forced to go on medication in order to dampen the excess production of cortisol and stress hormones, an excess production which was the result of living with chronic pain. During experiences like this it really is no wonder that you begin to hate your body and think of it as something working against you, actively thwarting your greatest wish: to be able to play music.
I would therefore say that the greatest benefit for me becoming an advanced teacher is the ability to see the body not as an adversary but as an incredibly logical construction which is constantly adapting to how it’s being used and under which conditions it has to function. And therefore also as adaptable to an almost unlimited degree.
This helps me to relate to other peoples problems in a different way and hopefully makes me a teacher and a lecturer worth trusting.
I have also found great pleasure in becoming more of a body nerd. I’m taking additional education into different systems of physical movement therapy while at the same time having now the confidence and trust in my own intuition which allows me to once more explore the fields of composition and improvisation. This time not as a way to avoid a problem but out of the sheer joy of exploration.
T: As a musician, do you have any dreams pertaining to physical and mental mastery?
I think being part of and working with something so heavily rooted in tradition as classical music, has some disadvantages. For instance: at a very early point you start to adopt certain concepts and beliefs concerning what being a musician is about and what it entails, especially in terms of accepting certain things as inevitable, such as physical pain or discomforts, or a certain level of stress.
In some instances these beliefs are so strong that they might keep us from seeking help and convince us that this is an acceptable state of being if we want to live a life of music.
Therefore the realization that this might not be the case gave me a somewhat different perspective on what to accept as limitations in my life. I think that one of my biggest dreams is to be able to look at my musicianship and my life in general with even greater expectation when it comes to creative potential, artistic ability or my health in general.
T: What would you say to inspire musicians around the world?
The most amazing instrument you’ll ever play is the one you’re walking around in so learn to use it in the best way possible. The knowledge is available, don’t be afraid to seek it out.