Andrew DuganThis article written by Andrew Dugan, Area 9 Membership Chair

As we conclude another harried holiday season, I want to encourage you to stop and take a moment to pause and reflect on the good, the bad, and, sometimes, the ugly that has happened over the past 366 days. Yes, in case you forgot, we had that extra day to squeeze in another rehearsal. I hope that you give yourself permission to do one little thing – breathe.

Currently between my church obligations…I mean opportunities, I have been singing with a semi-professional group in Tulsa. As we began this new concert season, the director has had an experienced yoga instructor lead us through some very positive breathing exercises. At first, being the trained musician that I am, thought: “I know how to breathe, what can I learn from this;” but yes, I admit it – I was wrong. The instructor has been leading us every week during part of the warm-up time in various breathing techniques. I will not go into the graphic details where you must stick your finger up your nose, but a couple of the exercises do stand out to me. You might try these things; take these into your everyday life and share with your fellow handbell musicians. Relax and Breathe

The first technique is rather simple. Close your eyes and just breathe slowly in through your nose and out your mouth. Block out the noise and distractions of life and just focus on your breath. It sounds like a bit of mumbo jumbo at times, but it is the small fractions of time when we can turn it all off and center ourselves we can do the best work possible.

The second technique is more obscure but just as important. Stand up straight, shoulders back, and into the fullness of your height. Why?

Appearance, even if you are insecure about what you are doing you will appear more confident and in control of the situation. I have noticed more and more in rehearsal and especially performance the posture of handbell musicians has slowly become more like Quasimodo as we lean further over ourselves.

Posture, this allows the body to work properly. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and stand with dignity to allow your body to do what it was created to do – make glorious music.

I wish you the very best New Year with new memorable and beautiful musical experiences. Remember why we spend countless hours in rehearsal and preparation: it is the joy of sharing the music. However, more importantly, do not forget to breathe.