The Best Piece of Advice You Will Ever Hear This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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“There’s something unreal about finding your exact center. It feels like floating.” Charlie repositioned himself in his chair, closing his eyes, focusing on achieving the perfect balance. “Put down your sandwich and give it a try.” He opened his eyes and gazed across the circular lunch table at me. “My posture is fine.” I just looked at him and kept chewing. Charlie’s excitement would not let this go. He got up and walked over to me. Following his instructions, I slid forward in my chair, straightened my spine, and lowered my shoulders. “Now, relax your jaw.”

Making friends at the California State Summer School for the Arts was not difficult, but Charlie’s enthusiasm and energy were infectious. After he attended the voice teacher’s first class on the Alexander Technique, he was eager to explain it to me. “It’s all about improving posture and presence, not only during performances but in everyday life.” By applying this technique, I simplified once-difficult tasks and began to lower my stress level. Relaxing my jaw became my maxim.

This lesson was reinforced this past school year. I auditioned with my friend, a saxophone player, for our school concert. We played Blue Rondo a la Turk by Dave Brubeck. The piano part was the most difficult; I stumbled and the slot went to another act. My friend later wrote in my yearbook, “Have fun with your music. It’s what it’s about.” He advised me that my natural talent would come through if I did not force it. Now, every time my arms tense up or my mind freezes in the middle of a Chopin etude, I relax my jaw and remember that expression rather than perfectionism is the main goal.

Learning to relax also led to a breakthrough in this year’s cross country season. I began competing with higher level athletes and significantly exceeded my previous records. Each time my coach crouched with one hand on her knee and the other pointed ahead, encouraging me to pass the next girl, I relaxed and focused. A year ago, I would have allowed my stress and exhaustion to override my will to succeed. Now, I calm my mind and muscles and realize my strength.

As students, we are constantly being advised. Once in a while, a worthwhile piece of advice comes along and helps us grow. Although “relax your jaw” may seem mundane, for me it has been profound. It allows me to focus on what I am doing rather than the fear of it. Then I can seize the power of the moment.





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