On 13 April 2020, the Monday after Easter, The Exhale’s first week-long retreat was set to take place in Biel, Switzerland. I had just resumed my performance life after staying at home to be with my newborn and was greatly looking forward to being with kindred spirits.
But before any of that happened, Covid-19 pushed the world’s population into their homes. An international retreat focusing on a holistic approach was unimaginable. However, I was kept awake with the promise I had made to our faculty and the participants. My thoughts turned to the internet…
A search ensued to find someone who could help me maintain my promise and still make The Exhale take place, somehow. I found Joanne Green in Somerset in the UK on a windy, rainy evening. Why would I remember the weather? Well, her internet connection was so unstable, I had to redial her number four times during our initial twenty-minute Whatsapp call.
I asked her if she was up for a bit of adventure. She said yes. I asked her whether she thought she could manage to help me bring the course online within five weeks. She said yes. She would need a better internet connection. “Sure. Good point. Let’s try. Let’s see whether I’m any good,” she said.
She wasn’t any old kind of good. Our teamwork, together with Skye Worster and Alex Everett, has been extraordinary. And, what a difference two years make. Besides Whatsapp no longer being the platform of choice, other things have happened.
The Exhale intended to involve 11 faculty members to teach string instruments, piano, chamber music and jazz improvisation, as well as yoga, Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, Dispokinesis, meditation, and provide organic, vegetarian meals sourced locally and created by local chefs. Participants from all over Europe were set to come, 45 in total.
That original intention evolved to become an online platform with over 2,000 registered participants, a faculty numbering more than 90, and thousands of hours spent in one-off online classes, courses, events, and experiences taught in three languages (English, German and French). Us four women worked week after week to provide our users with a state-of-the-art website, fresh content, classes that encouraged further education and provided credits, and a constant stream of communication with our community across various platforms, from our own website to educational hubs and social media channels.
Now, after two years, I have decided to press pause. Our final classes online will run just prior to Easter. We will be completing any ongoing cycles, such as the Kreutzer Sessions with Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and I; “The Art and Science of Practice” with violist, Matthew Jones; our weekly Scales Flow with violinist Emi Ohi Resnick; our weekly yoga and Pilates classes designed for musicians by pianist Veronika Shoot and cellist Joely Koos; our Bodymapping courses by violinist Jennifer Johnson and pianist Anita King; Feldenkrais Method classes with violinist Lisa Burrell; and will still be highlighting new members events and other fresh classes, for example with violinists Clíodhna Ryan and Philippe Borer.
We intend to focus our attention on bringing The Exhale back to its originally intended format: providing in-person classes. In the future, our online classes will only be used for blended learning in conjunction with in-person events. As we have done since day one, we will continue to provide space for community, exchange, and learning. We will continue to be in touch, will invite your messages and comments, the valuable posts and articles on topics surrounding holistic learning for musicians and performers, and continue to operate our social media channels in order to continue the conversation.
The Exhale would not have been possible without the dedication and time given by all the teachers and participants. Thank you! Let’s make use of the time we have left—tell us what you think! Share your ideas and opinions, join our classes, apply to be part of our faculty in the future, become a member, show the love.
Because that’s what it has been about, for me, since the beginning—reconciling our original love and passion for music, with a body, mind and heart that are as strong, open, and inspired as our wish to let the music play on and on…
Gwendolyn, Joanne, Skye and Alex
By being a member of The Exhale, your donations are used to help us maintain personal customer care, keep our service up to date, support our faculty with fair income, and ensure that those participants with the smallest incomes can also join our sessions.
As we move forward, your support will ensure that we can continue creating in-person experiences and will afford you continued access to our private groups. If you are in a position to support our continued work and development, we are hugely grateful.