Curriculum topics include the following subjects, which are discussed in detail over the course of the three-year program:
The Art and Science of Neurodynamics
The term “neurodynamics” was coined by Dr. Dimon to describe the dynamic working of the human neuromuscular system and how the system can be brought under greater conscious control. This topic looks at the neuro-muscular reflex system in detail, how it becomes interfered with, and how it can be brought into greater balance by understanding muscle function, proprioception, and consciousness. Topics include: the “PNR” system, inhibition, the special role of neck reflexes, antagonistic action, the autonomic nervous system, stretch reflexes, and more.
Mindfulness Studies are a constant practice at the Conservatory. Together, we learn to identify mindfulness as an emergent function of our advanced neurological design. In its broader evolutionary and biological context, mindfulness can be understood not simply as an ability to achieve higher mental states but as an overall movement toward a more integrated level of functioning. Students practice various mindfulness exercises daily to gain greater control and awareness of their psychophysical selves.
Awareness: A New Dimension in Education
Every human being possesses the faculty of awareness- a faculty that is remarkable enough in itself but which, with knowledge and training, can be developed further. In this course, we will examine how awareness exists on a continuum with other faculties such as thinking and deliberation, how it functions as a legitimate educational aim, and how it applies to such diverse areas of education as health and child development.
Basic musculoskeletal anatomy is presented as a way of introducing students to traditional anatomy—the location of particular bones, muscles and related structures. Familiarity with basic anatomy helps the student develop professional confidence; provides the student with a vocabulary that makes it possible to communicate with other professionals; and most importantly, provides the groundwork for acquiring further knowledge and skills. Musculoskeletal anatomy includes: bones; origins and attachments of muscles and related actions; joints, major ligaments, and actions at joints; discussion of major functional structures such as the pelvis, shoulder girdle, ankle, and hand; terminology and etymology of anatomical terms; major landmarks and human topography; and structures relating to breathing and vocalization.
In this course, anatomy is presented from a functional perspective—that is, how we are designed to move and function in activity. The course covers basic comparative anatomy of the human upright design, major anatomical systems such as the extensors and flexors, the spine, the shoulder girdle and upper limb, the pelvic girdle and lower limb, the spiral musculature, and breathing and voice.
Vocal Anatomy and Physiology
The human voice is a marvel of engineering and design. This course explores the remarkably subtle and intricate design of the human voice and how it serves as an instrument of expression. The course will cover the anatomy and mechanics of breathing, the design and function of the larynx, the suspensory mechanism of the throat, support, registers, muscles of the throat, vocal placement, and the relation of the voice to posture and overall coordination.
Vocal Training and Pedagogy
This course will examine practical issues of vocal training and performance related to speaking and singing. We examine the role of listening in coordinating the voice; the role of the “ear”; the role of facial muscles and practical techniques for activating these muscles; opening the throat; and the role of inhibition in speaking and vocalizing. The course will pay special attention to the “whispered ah” as a central element in learning to use the voice in a coordinated way and will be taught systematically over the term by breaking it down into component parts, understanding how it provides the foundation for vocal support, and how it leads to improved sound production.
The Elements of Skilled Performance
This course explores skilled performance and the elements required to develop mastery of an activity. Discussions include: the importance of breaking skills down into manageable elements, the role of habit in skilled performance, the central role of the self in performing, the physiology of skill, the receptive elements in skill, problems of tension in performance, performance anxiety, the role of thinking, and the role of non-doing in skilled performance.
Mind/Body Unity in Education and Health
In our current educational system we are taught how to use our minds through study and how to use our bodies through physical activity. But all activity, whether ‘mental’ or ‘physical’, is performed by means of a total psychophysical system, and little or no attention is given to educating ourselves in the working of this system as a unified whole. This course will define what is meant by psychophysical education in contrast to other ‘mind/body’ methods, and show how this subject can be applied in the classroom. The course will explore a variety of topics including kinesthetic awareness, learning, skill and performance, the control of habit, mind/body integration, holistic health, and mindfulness.
Prevention and Health
The course will examine problems of tension and stress from an educational perspective. The course will examine the role of “use” in causing specific physical problems; the fallacy of corrective exercise and relaxation techniques; the limitations of medical diagnosis and the medical model in understanding and treating tension and stress; the fight-flight theory of stress and the limitations of stress-reduction techniques; faulty action and the need for prevention in activity; medical diagnosis and the problem of defining a psychophysical standard of health; empirical criteria and the need for a positive concept of health.
Child Development covers the child’s complex mental and physical makeup, and the central role of psychophysical functioning in our conception of complete and healthful development. The study of the unified working of mind and body offers parents and teachers a means of evaluating performance based on a comprehensive understanding of psychophysical functioning in activity and provides practical strategies for improving attention, performance, and motor skills.