Margret Elson has pioneered in the field of ‘wellness and the performing artist’ for over 40 years, beginning with the ground-breaking workshop “Problem-Solving for Pianists” at the University of California, Berkeley Extension in 1977. In her dual careers as musician and psychotherapist, she has taught and re-trained pianists, coached instrumentalists and vocalists, performed as soloist and in ensemble, and been psychotherapist to artists and performers.
Ms. Elson’s musical background includes ten years as a piano scholarship student at Juilliard, Preparatory Division with Edgar Roberts. She continued studying in Paris, and in the San Francisco Bay Area with master teachers Alexander Libermann and Marjorie Petray. She frequently adjudicates competitions, and served as Music Director for the Junior Bach Festival Association, Berkeley. In 1993, she and her piano partner, Elizabeth Swarthout, received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to produce the CD Twentieth Century American 4-Hand Piano Music (Laurel Record).
Ms. Elson has been counselor to artists and performers for 40 years, helping them overcome impediments to their artistic development such as: performance anxiety; the need for technical re-training; difficulty in playing with passion and ease; and debilitating trauma. Because of her training as a psychotherapist as well as musician, she is able to discriminate amongst the possible causes of such problems and address them appropriately.
In 1983 she founded and directed The Center of Artistic Counseling in Oakland, CA. She has presented her work throughout the United States, Oslo and London and at international conferences such as World Piano Pedagogy, The Biology of Music-Making, and The First International Conference on Mind, Body and the Performing Arts. She became a certified hypnotherapist and is a licensed psychotherapist.
Margret Elson teaches piano and counsels performers in her studio in Oakland, CA. She also travels to present her work in lectures, master classes, workshops and individual sessions. As teacher with 35 years experience and licensed psychotherapist with 30 years experience with performers, Margret Elson combines her musical and psychological insights, as well as humor, into a unique teaching method.
Ms. Elson realizes that a particular problem may have several possible causes. Such causes might include gaps in previous learning, maladaptive physiological/technical components, and/or emotional issues. As musician and psychotherapist she is in the unique position of being able to distinguish the possible causes of an impediment and address them appropriately.
Ms. Elson’s approach is different from other methods in several ways. It is not only a physiologically correct approach that capitalizes on natural movements. But it also integrates natural body movement and breathing into the full performing experience. Most importantly, it includes a method of self-calming into the entire music-making process.
Ms. Elson’s first book Passionate Practice: The Musician’s Guide to Learning, Memorizing and Performing, called “profound” and “the best of its kind” is now in its third printing. She is currently writing Couch and the Piano: Music and Psyche in which she presents case studies of her unusual work with traumatized musicians.