‘The message I want to convey to the musical world is that we can create a different reality. We can be more connected with ourselves and others, and create a more caring environment.’
Violinist Alina Pogostkina describes her musical education as unnatural and unhealthy: “My whole life has been filled with enormous pressure. I first studied with my father, who was very strict and completely focused on the violin. This was followed by entering a university system and also not having the space to be a human being. I grew up a child prodigy, playing from the age of five and playing solos with orchestra from the age of seven.
“I had to operate like this from an early age, so I learned early on to suppress my emotions. I grew up being very dissociated. There was a split in my personality: the nice girl on stage, and then all the pain that I chose to dissociate myself from because it didn’t serve the functional part of me.
Alina also detects a similar process occurring on a larger scale, in music schools and society in general: “we are born completely unique and perfect as we are. We don’t question ourselves as babies, then we are taught by caregivers, teachers, or parents and put into a system where people can compare us. This is where we start to contract.
She continues: “We learn, subconsciously as children, ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘I have to work hard to achieve the goals that other people have for me because that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ It is a dangerous path that we follow, as a society in general. Rather than considering how we can help the child or student develop, we try to force them into a particular shape, or an idea that we think is “right.” This pressure prevents her from becoming the most authentic and fully expressed version of herself.
This suggests, to some extent, that there is a counter-productive and possibly detrimental aspect to the current systems of formal schooling and training: if we are always thinking critically and analyzing what we do, surely – at some point – it becomes counterproductive because it disrupts a natural state of flow. Alina agrees, saying “connecting with emotion, intuition and creativity…none of that can happen if we try to lock ourselves into a certain way of being, doing, doing. ‘accomplish and compete’. It shuts down all the sensitive receptivity and emotional intelligence that we have.
Yet the process of learning a musical instrument must involve a certain degree of pressure, discipline, and hard work. The question is, how do you maintain and protect an authentic voice in the midst of this pressure? It’s something Alina wants to tackle through her ‘heart project’, Mindful Music Making.
She says: “I wanted to create a holistic approach that deals with the musician as a whole, addressing the technical and musical aspects, of course, but also the emotions, the state of mind and the physique. By chance, I met two amazing women – Leonie Von Arnim and Susanne Feld. Both are therapists, but Susanne is also a musician and teaches the Alexander Technique. We got together and started our business in 2018.’
Part of this holistic approach is to detect and then remove barriers to the fluidity, freedom and enjoyment of play. Alina explains ‘when people tell me ‘I want to find more joy’, or ‘access more flow’, we have to ask ourselves what is stopping them from being in complete connection with themselves; their body; the music; the audience. You can’t just press a button and suddenly be in a state of flow.
She concludes: “These blockages are usually related to the past: fears and coping mechanisms in our system designed to keep us safe. It is actually a very contracted state in which we cannot access flow, creativity or expansion. It’s a deep exploration of that person, to discover how they can evolve into a state where they feel more secure with themselves.
Mindful Music Making offers several events throughout May, including an online “community experience” program and a two-day workshop on nonviolent communication.
Learn more on the MMM website here.