Breathing Life into the Clarinet – Dr. Shawn Copeland

Dr. Copeland led a workshop on breathing and the body with the audience up on their feet, participating in awareness exercises.  The first exercise focused on awareness of the body and how change of focus and attention affected breathing.  At first, Dr. Copeland had the audience stand with closed eyes and focus only on breathing, reminding the audience to be aware of “the space above your head, and the space behind your back.”  Gradually, he had the audience open their eyes and transition from focusing on one person, to several, to widening their attention to the entire room.  Through this exercise, he demonstrated that breathing is easily and dramatically changed through lessened focus on the space of the self.  He encouraged the audience to always remember that “I have space”– space to move in, space to breathe in, space simply to exist!

Following the first exercise, Dr. Copeland gave a detailed lecture on the anatomy from a Body Mapping standpoint.   Dr. Copeland explained the body map as a physical and literal map of locations and interactions within the body.  These maps influence all body motion, and are continually evolving and changing as the body develops. Occasionally, however, the maps don’t “update,” which leads to injuries.  Dr. Copeland stressed that “the quality of the map influences the quality of the movement.  The quality of the movement affects the quality of the sound.”

Dr. Copeland shared a multitude of helpful anatomical and diagnostic information about the body, specifically related to posture (spine/arm/clavicle curvature and alignment) and breathing (shape, length, and function of the lungs).  Throughout this discussion he consistently advocated getting the mind out of the way and allowing the body to do what it is built to do, stating that “if the intention is clear, the breathing will automatically regulate.”

For more information, clarinetists can look for Dr. Shawn Copeland’s soon-to-be-published book, What Every Clarinetist Needs to Know About the Body (GIA).

–Notes by Nora Shaffer
 Nora Shaffer,  a recent DePaul University graduate (CER ‘14, MM ‘12), is a passionate performer and dedicated teacher in the ChicagoLand area. Additionally, she is Principal and E-flat Clarinetist with the Lake Effect Clarinet Quartet.

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