Primary Blog/Gigging Musician Podcast/Episode 214 - Gigging Musician Podcast: Jennifer Roig-Francoli Interview

Episode 214 - Gigging Musician Podcast: Jennifer Roig-Francoli Interview

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

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Episode Recap

In this episode, Jared Judge welcomes back Jennifer Roig-Francoli, a former associate concertmaster for Apollo's Fire and an expert in the Alexander Technique, to the Gigging Musician Podcast. They delve into Jennifer's recent book launch, "Make Great Music with Ease," which offers insights into smarter practice, confident performance, and leading a happier life as a musician. The book, divided into three parts, addresses the challenges musicians face, shares personal and client stories of overcoming these challenges, and provides practical techniques for improvement. Jennifer and Jared discuss the evolving landscape of being a musician in the modern world, the importance of self-promotion, and the challenges of education in music schools. They also explore the impact of mindset, anxiety, and physical health on a musician's career. This episode is a deep dive into the holistic approach to musicianship, emphasizing the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional well-being in the pursuit of musical excellence.

Best Quote

"Learning how to be vulnerable and share your authentic self fearlessly is a skill. It really does need to be learned and practiced."

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Transcript

Hey, gigging pros! Welcome to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast. I'm your host, Jared Judge, and I'm excited for yet another amazing musician interview.

This time, it is a musician we've had on this podcast before. Jennifer Roig-Francoli is the former associate concert master for Apollo's fire. An amazing musician, someone who practices Alexander technique and teaches it to others.

Hosts her own program teaching musicians how to be happier and healthier as a musician. And this time we're chatting about her book launch, which just recently happened on January 7. So, Jennifer, welcome back to The Gigging Musician Podcast.

How are you? Hi, Jared. Thank you so much for having me back. I am actually doing great.

Thanks. Fantastic. Well, let's cut right to the chase here.

You just released a book. Would you mind sharing the title and what it's all about? Sure. The book is called "Make Great Music With Ease!: The Secret to Smarter Practice, Confident Performance, and Living a Happier Life".

And it's about all those things. It's about how to be a musician in today's world. The book is split into three parts.

The first part is all about the challenges that we face as musicians in the categories of mind, body, spirit, emotions, mindset, physical issues, all kinds of stuff that we can come up against as musicians. The second part of the book is about my personal journey as a professional musician and lots of stories from my clients, people I've worked with, how they've overcome their challenges. And part three is the practical part of the book, where I actually tell you, the reader, how you can make great music with ease using the techniques that I share in the book.

Awesome. And we'll dive into all three of those parts. But the first part was about the problems that musicians face.

And I'm curious, is now a different time to be a musician? Like, is it a different experience now compared to years or decades ago?

Absolutely. I mean, things keep changing, of course. And I happen to be a classical musician, so I'm well aware that things used to be very different in the times where a lot of the music I play was written back in the 1700s, 1800s.

So things keep changing. But I think things have changed very quickly in just the last decade, a couple of decades, and I'm 53 now, so I've been around for a little while. We had lps when I grew up, and I remember the first pc that we had in our house, so we didn't have smartphones.

And just seeing over the last few decades how rapidly technology has kind of taken over the world. And that has really changed so much for everyone in every industry. But yes, for musicians, it's a completely different world from when I grew up and when I went to school.

Yeah, there's so many things we could talk about, for sure. If it's okay with you, why don't we just kind of model the structure of the book? What are some of the problems that you see musicians face, especially in this new era of music making? Well, honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is a problem in education, where I've been on the faculty of a couple of universities. I taught Alexander technique at the University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music.

I went to the Cleveland Institute of Music. I went to Indiana University. But I think one of the biggest problems that I'm not trying to single out any particular institution, but I'm kind of seeing it as a systemic thing.

And there are some schools that are more enlightened than others. But it seems to me that the whole, at least in the, not just classical education, really, it's music schools everywhere. They're just not catching up fast enough with technology and what musicians need to be able to do once they graduate, once they have a music degree.

They've worked for years, maybe their whole lives, practicing, practicing, practicing, getting better at their skill. But if they don't have the survival skills to survive in the real world once they graduate, then unfortunately, all too many of them are not going to be able to use the skills they've developed professionally. I think that's really sad, and it's a huge problem on the part of the educational institution is that they're just not catching up and not teaching kids what they really need to learn to promote themselves when they're done.

And especially as classical musicians, so many of the classes and things people are taught are based on what was taught in the 18 hundreds sometimes or early 19 hundreds in a completely different world. And it just doesn't work anymore. Very few people who want an orchestra job will win an orchestra audition.

It's incredibly competitive. I have two kids, two sons. One of them just completed a bachelor's in music.

Well, he didn't technically do it in music, but he is now a musician wanting to be a singer songwriter in pop music. My younger son is doing master's in classical violin like me. So two totally different worlds, but both of them are going to need to know how to help themselves make money once they graduate.

I'm just sort of watching it happen and helping the best I can. But it's really frustrating to see institutions not giving them necessarily what I think they need. Yeah, for sure.

And I've experienced this firsthand myself, and many of the other musicians I've interviewed have said the very same thing, is that music school prepares you to graduate from music school. Exactly. And that's it.

Well, that's fantastic. So promotion definitely is a huge thing. But I know in your book you also talk about a lot of other challenges they face, like performance anxiety, stress and mindset, pain and injury.

How would you say the times that we're in have exacerbated those issues? I think those issues have been a problem for every generation. I really think it's more a human problem that kind of transcends time and culture. And actually, as you were asking me the question, I was linking together the previous question about how we need to be able to promote ourselves.

But you can have the best promotional skills, the best entrepreneurial skills, but if you still have the mindset or emotional hang ups or the anxiety to put yourself out there, then it's going to be really hard to succeed, even if you do have all the technical, what's the word? Technological skills and marketing skills and all that. A lot of people come to me with anxiety about those things too, even just generalized anxiety, like being in a room with strangers. It's not just about performance with instrument.

It's also about just being vulnerable in front of the world. And I think that, to answer your question, is maybe harder in with some ways and easier in other ways. I mean, I see younger people having less of an issue with that in some areas.

For instance, they've grown up having pictures taken of them constantly by their parents and friends, and they've grown up with Snapchat and taking selfies constantly. And they know about social media and they don't get anxious about posting themselves, about themselves online. The same way people of an older generation, like my generation, or even older than that, they can have tremendous anxiety from even being in a picture.

In some ways, it's a lot easier for people now, the younger people now. But in some ways it's harder because the competition is so much stiffer. You're competing with the entire world now when you go online, that's tremendous.

Think of that pressure. That's a good point. I've noticed that with some of my coaching students too, because I coach a lot of musicians.

How to promote yourself and put yourself out there, specifically in the realm of private event performance opportunities. And I noticed the anxiety and mindset does get in the way. Even I can't put that video out there.

The angle makes me look larger than I actually am. Or I can't send that email because it sounds too confident. Yeah, that's interesting.

Maybe I should have you into one of my sessions and help my students overcome some of those things. Sure, that would be really fun, actually. I mean, I've had to teach myself all this because I went to music school thinking and intending to become a professional solo violinist.

And I really didn't care about anything else. But then my life went in a completely different direction. By choice.

I stopped doing solo performing much. And then once I learned how to be an Alexander teacher and got certified and wanted to build a coaching studio, I realized pretty soon on that I would need to go online if I wanted to reach enough musicians interested in what I do. And so I had to teach myself from nothing, how to promote myself.

And there were a lot of mindset hurdles I needed to get over. Just like what you just mentioned, most of us are taught to. At least I'll speak for myself.

I was taught to not brag. It's like you're supposed to be confident, but you're not supposed to look like you're full of yourself. And it's a very fine line.

I put my picture, for example, on the COVID of my book, and that's just good marketing. But it was really hard for me to. I had to do a lot of mindset work to get to the point where I felt that it was okay to put my face on the COVID of the book.

It actually wasn't so hard because for years I've been doing the same work about Facebook posts. It was really hard to put my face in front of everyone and then to present my opinions about things that might have conflicted with other people's opinions. That happens all the time because my perspective is different from others, as it should be.

But putting myself out there was really hard. And thankfully, what I actually teach is what I needed to practice for myself to take care of my mindset in that area. Just like I teach my musician students how to do that in music, so it's really not so different.

I feel like I've always been a performer. I used to do it more on stage with my violin. Now I'm doing it online with words and pictures.

It's very different in some ways, but really similar in others. You're presenting your own perspective on things. You're expressing yourself.

And learning how to do that with. Learning how to be vulnerable and share your authentic self fearlessly is a skill. It really does need to be learned and practiced.

I have found. Yeah, for sure. How would you go about that? Say you identify, like, you have to have the self awareness first to identify that I struggle with confidence.

And that shows up in my emails where I'm not as confident in the way that I write about myself. How would I go about coaching myself? Or how would you coach someone like me to overcome those hurdles? Yeah, that's a great question. And it really does go to the essence of what I teach, which is based on the Alexander technique principles.

And there's so much I can say about this, and of course, it's not something I can just answer in a few words, but I'll do my best. The very first thing that most people miss is that we are a unified, holistic, one unified self. What I mean by that is that my mind is connected to my body, which is connected to my emotions, connected to soul, spirit, whatever you think of as yourself, it's really just one thing.

And the problem that most of us have is that we tend to separate ourselves into different compartments. Like, oh, these are mental activities, these are physical activities. I have a physical problem, my arm hurts, or I have a mental issue, I have mind wandering problems.

I have anxiety. That's an emotional. It doesn't work like that.

All of the issues that we have and the lack of self confidence that we're talking about is not just emotional. And it's not just a mindset issue, it's also physical. So one of the easiest and quickest ways for a person to start working on a lack of self confidence is to start connecting their experience in those different areas.

And a lot of the time, if you feel nervous, your heart might be racing, you might start to have other physical symptoms, and then you kind of miss how that's connected with how you're thinking in the moment. So the first step is really just to observe what's happening in the moment when you're feeling anxious or insecure. What am I actually thinking and how am I feeling right now? Without, and this is the key, without judging it or trying to change it.

So you're not trying to run away from how you're feeling in the moment. You're actually accepting that experience that you're having in the moment, just being with it. That's the very first step.

And it's something we're not used to doing, most of us. Yeah, I admit I probably skip over that step most of the time. Most people do.

It's not unusual. Yeah. And that does sound uncomfortable to do that consciously.

Yeah. But the surprising thing is that the more you can actually stay with the discomfort without judging it and get curious. Curiosity is the key to overcoming this and to changing things, really.

Just observing with a kind of healthy curiosity. Like, oh, I'm experiencing this symptom. Like, my stomach hurts.

Oh, that's interesting. What else am I experiencing? And the what else question is really important, because when we're feeling discomfort, we usually get hung up on it. We get stuck in that feeling, and it's so uncomfortable.

We want to make it go away, but by ignoring it or trying to change it, we're actually feeding it and giving it more power. So instead, you want to stay with the discomfort of the experience and then be okay. It's like, okay, well, I'm experiencing that, but what else is coming up? And we usually really start with the body.

So, like, well, what else am I experiencing in the body? What else am I feeling? Oh, my neck is tight. I hadn't noticed that before. Interesting.

What else? Oh, I'm curling my toes. Oh, that's interesting. There's tension in my feet.

Well, that's interesting. What else? Yeah. And you kind of start there, and before you know it, you're not thinking about being nervous anymore.

You're just having an experience. And this is part of the first thing that I teach my students. It's an etude that's called Ima, which means now in Japanese.

It was developed by my partner, Mia Morales, who created a hands off, touch free version of Alexander technique that I teach. That's why I can teach online. But so you start with just noticing what's actually happening, shifting your attention with curiosity.

And then at some point, you can get curious about the parts of you that feel fine. And there are always parts of you that feel fine. Quiet, easy, comfortable, or at least a little bit less uncomfortable.

And you want to start shifting to get curious about that easing in you. And that'll take you into more of an experience of easing, because what you focus on, you get more of. Yeah, that's fair.

That reminds me of a Tony Robbins quote where focus flows, energy goes. Something like that. Yeah, exactly.

It's a good one. It's true. Very cool.

Well, awesome. Is that one of the, you mentioned, part three of the book offers solutions and how to's. Is that in the book? Yes, actually, it is.

Ima, that a two called means now in Japanese. Right. That's in there.

And then there's also another etude that comes after. Actually, to be technically accurate, Ima is a pre awareness etude. It's not technically considered one of our etudes.

It's kind of a warm up because you need to be able to notice relative tension and relative ease in your body before you can then get curious about easing with the first real awareness attitude in the book. It's called the cycle. That's the book as well.

And then I talk about one more, but it's really hard to give lots of awareness attitudes in the written form in the book. So I keep it to a minimum as far as those etudes go. But there's also a free video training that goes with the book.

Very good. Buy the book, can sign up for that and get like a series of eight emails that teach you more in depth with a video how to do these things. Yeah, that's awesome.

I also am curious and love that you, and probably the Alexander technique community refers to these exercises as etudes because it's no longer just like a prescription. It's not necessarily, let's just slap this band aid on it and fix it like. No, these are parts of the development of the whole human and kind of.

Is that the reason why they're called, well, etudes, as I'm sure you know, these are studies, so don't like to call them exercises. We really call them etudes. And by the way, Mio Morales, I just mentioned who created Primal Alexander, he came up with these etudes and calling them etudes.

And it makes sense because, and musicians are particularly aware, we need to practice. If we want to get better at a skill, we need to practice it. And classical musicians at least, are used to having etudes books, right? You have books of exercises and scales and arpeggios and little studies that you work on every day.

So that's where the etudes comes from. And yeah, it's definitely, people do think that, oh, I just need this quick fix. I need this pill, like you said, I need a band aid or I need something to just fix it, make it go away.

It's really just not how it works. Yeah, we needed to learn how to take ourselves in a better direction. Exactly.

And I also think the mindset around I need a fix implies that I'm broke it. Yes. So true.

Very cool. Well, awesome. We're getting kind of close to the end of the podcast.

We've still got plenty of time. But I would love to hear about some of the stories in section two of the book. Can you give us some examples of the transformations that all of these different etudes and just your approach to this have created? Yeah, there are so many.

And actually, what I said was a little misleading. These stories are throughout the whole book, stories that I've taken from my students. Of course, they've allowed me to put them in the book, and then also my own personal stories.

And there's just so many that come to mind, it's, like, hard to even choose. Well, one that comes to mind is a student of mine who has actually been in my membership for five years now. I think she has just stayed with this process.

I mean, learning the Alexander technique. And actually, I should say I talk about the Alexander technique, but really I teach what I call the art of freedom method for conscious living and masterful artistry, which is my all comprehensive system for bringing Alexander technique practices into every area of life. So we could talk more about that another time.

But I just wanted to say that it's really very comprehensive. It's about living as well as your music making. And I'm thinking of angel, who is a harpist who started out with me, I think, five years ago or so.

And she had a lot of pain. She had scoliosis and other issues. She had terrible trauma to her spine.

I can't remember the specifics, but basically a doctor had told her she would be in pain for the rest of her life and there was nothing that could be done about it. And actually, I have two students right now who've been in my group that long, and their doctors said they would always have pain. So people come to me, even with extreme pain.

Not everybody has pain, of course, but these two did, and nobody was giving them any hope. In fact, I think that's the worst thing a doctor can ever do, is say, you will be in pain forever. It's just horrible.

So, thankfully, angel and Kay is the other woman who came to me. Both of them were open enough to entertain the possibility that there may be still some hope for them to get out of pain. And both of them were actually pretty quickly able to dramatically reduce their pain levels.

And like angel specifically, I'm thinking right now, I don't remember how long it took, but maybe a matter of months where she became pain free. Wow. And she'll still have pain.

Occasionally it'll come back, because she does have a lot of really serious issues. So occasionally it will come back, but most of the time, she's not suffering from pain. But not only that, her harp playing has taken off like you wouldn't believe.

She is a completely different musician. And she's somebody who is terrified of making a video of herself playing and sharing it. With anybody.

So I took her step by step through the process of, well, just get the camera ready. Like, don't turn it on yet, but play in front of the camera, off. And step by step, she got to the point where now it's easy.

She just gets in front of the camera and plays. And she couldn't care less if anybody's watching or not. It's really beautiful to watch.

Yeah, that's an amazing transformation. And, yeah, I cannot imagine a doctor just telling you you'll be in pain for the rest of your life. Isn't that horrible? Terrible.

So thank you for helping her with that and for all the other people who you've been able to help. Awesome. I just have to say, I feel so privileged when somebody, unfortunately, all too many people come to me as a last resort.

I wish they would come to me as a first resort because I know that it can just save them years of misery and frustration and anxiety and pain. But better late than never. I'm always very happy when people find me.

Yeah, exactly. It's kind of like what we were saying before. People should come to you before they identify they have a problem.

Yeah, that would be ideal. Awesome. Well, what else would you like to share about the book before the end of our episode? Well, something a lot of people have said is that, well, it's good for professional musicians, it's good for amateurs, it's good for students.

Basically, any kind of musician, any genre, any skill level can benefit from this book. But a lot of people have actually told me that it's not just for musicians, because all the skills and the challenges that people are facing, they're human challenges. And so a lot of people are just giving it as a gift to non musician family members and friends.

And so that's really heartwarming for me to know that it's useful for anybody. Yeah, that's great to know. Fantastic.

Well, congratulations on the book launch. Where can our listeners find it and buy themselves a copy? So the book is available now on Amazon, and you can just look it up by the title or my name.

Again, the title of the book is, "Make Great Music With Ease!: The Secret to Smarter Practice, Confident Performance, and Living a Happier Life".

And it's, of course, also available on my website or through my website. Rather it takes you to Amazon, but my website is www.ArtofFreedom.me

Very great. Well, thank you again so much for coming onto The Gigging Musician Podcast a second time. I'm thrilled to have you as a repeat guest, and I'd love to just keep in touch with you and see your progress.

And I hope that a lot of musicians take you up on your book because I do feel like it would help so many musicians out there. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me again, Jared.

It's always a huge pleasure and a fun to talk about these topics with you. Oh, my pleasure. You too.

And to our listeners, thanks again for tuning to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast. Remember, "Your music will not market itself!", and you could market it a lot more confidently if you get Jennifer's book! Make Great Music with Ease!

Bye, everybody.

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