19-year-old opera major entering senior year at SEMO

Friday, August 17, 2007
Majhon Phillips, 19, recently returned from Germany, where she studied the Alexander Technique.

Majhon Phillips' educational experience is vastly different from that of her peers.

When other 19-year-olds are still college underclassmen, Phillips, of Jackson, is going into her senior year at Southeast Missouri State University as an opera major, not long after taking classes this summer at a German university.

In eighth grade she took the ACT and scored a 26. At 16 she attended college full time.

"I was just really bored," Phillips said of her primary education experience. "They kept teaching the same things over and over."

Majhon's mother, Aleda, said she and husband Allen at first didn't know how advanced their child was until someone with knowledge of childhood development told them. Majhon was putting together sentences before she was a year old, she said.

"We're were both only children, and she was our only child," Aleda said. "We had nothing to compare it to."

This summer Majhon's travels took her to the German city of Jena to study at Friedrich-Schiller University, established in 1558. Her mission was to take the 12 voice lessons she needs to graduate. But her educational experience went beyond her university studies. She joined a community choir to maintain her singing voice and noticed the German singers were relaxed.

"They were all just so free," she said.

Those singers were using something called the Alexander Technique, which she now hopes to use to help her piano and voice students.

The Alexander Technique has a variety of applications, from performing arts like acting, dance and music to athletics. The discipline basically teaches performers and others better control of their bodies by encouraging better balance, freedom of movement and coordination, with many similarities to yoga.

Southeast music faculty member and Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra director Dr. Sara Edgerton is an Alexander devotee who says the method has numerous benefits for its students.

"It's a technique based on the principles of motion," Edgerton said. "It's actually a process to become more coordinated between the mind and body, to use yourself in the most advantageous way."

Technique teachers must be certified, and they often take residencies with orchestras, Edgerton said.

"It's been felt to be a very good use of orchestra money," she said.

Phillips isn't certified to teach Alexander, but says she hopes to work her new knowledge into lessons for her own students, who range in age from 3 to 65.

She'll give a master piano class at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 at Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau.

To learn more about the Alexander Technique, visit www.alexandertechnique.com.


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