Pedro de Alcantara
Visting Professor, String Department
After growing up in São Paulo, Brazil, I studied at the State University of New York’s Purchase College (BFA in Music, 1981) and the Yale School of Music (MM in Music Performance, 1983). My main cello teachers were Barney Lehrer, Robert Gardner, Daniel Morganstern, Aldo Parisot, and William Pleeth. The teacher whom I credit with shaping up my musical mind is the pianist Robert Levin, now a professor at Harvard. With him I studied theory, analysis, ear-training, and chamber music. I’ve also studied singing with the late Roy Hickman (a professor at the Guildhall School in London) and I’ve soaked up the teachings of Cornelius L. Reid, from whom I’ve learned as much about the voice as I have about the sensing and thinking processes and the art of pedagogy.
I trained as an Alexander teacher in London, with Patrick Macdonald (who himself was trained by Alexander in the 1930’s) and Shoshana Kaminitz. After obtaining my certification in 1986 I taught for three years at the Alexander Institute (directed by Dr. Wilfred Barlow, who was also trained by Alexander) before moving to Paris in 1990, where I still live.
My first book, Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique, with a foreword by Sir Colin Davis, was published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 1997. Its French version came out in 2000, the German one in 2002, and the Japanese one in 2010. In 2013 OUP published a completely rewritten new edition. Also in 1997, the French publisher Editions Dangles published my second book, La Technique Alexander: Principes et Pratique, which I wrote in French (my third language, Portuguese being my mother tongue). Afterwards I re-wrote the book in English; titled The Alexander Technique: A Skill for Life, it was published by Crowood Press in England in 1999. In 2008 I was named the editor of a new book series at OUP. Titled THE INTEGRATED MUSICIAN, the series is based on the musical philosophy I have developed over the past twenty-five years and will include volumes for string players, singers, pianists, and other musicians. Besides editing the series, I’m slated to write several volumes for it. In the fall of 2008 AlumniVentures, a new initiative at the Yale School of Music, awarded me a grant to support the series’ dedicated website.
The publication of Indirect Procedures led to engagements to teach all over the world. I’ve given seminars in presentations in the US, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve often received return invitations from institutions such as the Royal College of Music in London, New York University, and the Conservatoire Populaire de Genève.
My music students include the members of first-rate orchestras like the Orchestre National de Lille, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, the Berlin Radio Orchestra, and many others. I’ve also coached concert pianists and singers, guitarists, accordionists, even players of the tin whistle and the didgeridoo. Teaching the cello – my first love – has been a constant in my practice for nearly twenty years now. My fellow Alexander teachers have been very supportive of my writings and of the developments in my style of teaching the Technique, and I delight in giving lessons and seminars for Alexander teachers both in my home base of Paris and in my travels.
In the process of preparing Indirect Procedures I discovered a passion for writing itself. From this passion poured a number of works, including poems, short stories, and novels for young readers. My first novel, Befiddled, was published in 2005 by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House. It tells the story of 13-year-old violinist Becky Cohen and her struggles against a mean teacher, an overburdened mother, and really bad hair. My second novel, Backtracked, is a time-travel epic of New York City, in which the vessel of time travel is the city’s subway system. Delacorte published it in 2009. I’m currently working on The Divine Computer, a new novel for young readers, as well as a manual for writers titled Rhythm & Flow in a Writer’s Career.