by Rena Urso
Last summer my friend Snježana Pavičevič, piccoloist of the Belgrade Philharmonic, and I began a conversation about the possibility of me visiting her in Belgrade, Serbia to present a Body Mapping workshop. Over the following months, Snježana worked her magic, and we came up with an exciting plan for a complete weekend of Body Mapping and a recital. Imagine our excitement when as it grew closer, we learned that our friend Andrea “Fluter Scooter” Fisher would also be in Belgrade at the same time! Snježana organized a full weekend of Body Mapping workshops, a workshop presented by Andrea on The Artist/Entrepreneur, and two fabulous recitals over the weekend of September 10 & 11.
It was a treat to present the entire six-hour Body Mapping course “What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body” over two days, followed by a recital in the beautiful Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall. Often when I am engaged to present Body Mapping workshops, they are condensed versions of the full course. Squeezing six hours of material into 90 minutes or two hours is never easy; I present an outline of the basics, but with less time, I am limited to how in-depth I can go. To have the luxury of two days to present these workshops, including movement exploration, was a gift!
Every Body Mapping workshop or full course I teach is uniquely special, and the weekend in Belgrade was no exception – it was an extraordinary time both for the students and for me. The musical community in Belgrade has never experienced anything quite like this before. In fact, the closest licensed Body Mapping Educator lives in France. In the US, we are fortunate to have Body Mapping educators sprinkled all over the states; in the EU, however, they are few and far between. So, the opportunity to share this essential information with the Belgrade flute community was especially meaningful. I received loads of feedback over the weekend and in the days to follow; some called the workshops super helpful, mind-blowing, life changing, inspiring, and in some cases, already having a positive impact on their playing. I love hearing when students immediately see noticeable changes and discover ease immediately. Many expressed that the tools learned will significantly impact all they do as performing artists and teachers, as well as in their everyday lives. Music to my ears!
For my recital Saturday night, I was joined by local pianist Nataša Plećaš, Snježana, and Andrea. I arrived at the hall about an hour ahead of time, and to my great surprise, the three of us were asked to participate in an interview with Ars Sonora and Radio Beograd 2. If you understand Serbian, you can hear the concert review and interview here.
I curated some of my favorite works by Casella, Dohnanyi, Vivanco Sanchez, and one of the Boehm Souvenir des Alpes, which I have adapted from flute and arranged for piccolo – with a full arrangement for piccolo and strings forthcoming. Snježana and I performed Yuko Uebayashi’s gorgeous Town Light, and Andrea and I performed Gareth McLearnon’s lovely arrangement of Piazzolla’s Oblivion for flute, alto flute, and piano. Then, four of us ended the concert with Herman Beeftink’s Fireflies for piccolo, two flutes, and piano. Short and sweet!
Andrea shared her vast expertise on Saturday afternoon in a workshop about her life and career as an artist/entrepreneur. She and I share a similarity in our careers in that we both wear many hats and do various things as performing artists. Everyone loved her presentation and candid discussion and found her stories and continued creativity and success to be inspiring. The weekend events were capped off by a performance at a newly renovated church with a fantastic organ, where Andrea played a unique recital of solo flute and organ, including works she has adapted for flute and organ, as well as a piece written for her.
Thoughts from Andrea Fisher on the event: “I’ve been living in Belgrade for over a year and a half now, and there is such a vibrant culture and music scene in Serbia and throughout Eastern Europe! Entrepreneurship is a fairly new concept to flute students and teachers here, so it was great to be able to share some of my experiences. This was a great weekend of learning and music, from the Body Mapping classes to the concert, and ending with my flute and organ event! Thanks to Snježana for putting on this special event. It was very well received!”
Thoughts from Snježana Pavičevič on the event: “The weekend offered our flute community (high school students, teachers, and non-flutist colleagues) such a unique experience. We learned a lot about our bodies as our instruments, about keeping ourselves healthy and using the BEST of our potential. We learned so many options that we have as flutists, and we very much enjoyed listening to new flute repertoire and a totally different approach to flute performance (flute + organ!). We are incredibly grateful for this amazing collaboration and looking forward to future events!”
A few of my personal highlights from the weekend:
- Working with and getting to know the wonderful flutists in this community – a thoughtful, warm, enthusiastic group of teachers/performers who invited me in as if I was an old friend. Thank you!
- Walking the streets of Belgrade and having the opportunity to experience the food and culture of this historical city. Snježana and Andrea served as fabulous tour guides on Monday after the flute extravaganza was behind us, and they showed my husband John and me around the city. Magnificent! And delicious food – if you go, be sure to try the shopska salad and ajvar!
- Performing flute chamber music with these two awesome flutists, Snježana and Andrea. We had so much fun together and are already planning our next adventure, hopefully, something soon in Torino, Italy!
- A game-changing Alexander Technique lesson with local flutist/AT teacher Natalija Jovic. There may not be any Body Mapping teachers in Belgrade, but there is an outstanding Alexander Technique teacher. I am still enjoying the post-AT lesson bliss and improved ease and freedom in my breathing and arms.
- The chocolate! A week later, I still enjoy the many gifts of delicious chocolate! The “Najlepše želje” milk chocolate with biscuit pieces is out of this world!
I would be remiss if I didn’t share another experience from the weekend. Having recently recovered from COVID, I am grateful for my wellness trifecta of Body Mapping, yoga, and meditation, all of which facilitated my mindful return to playing. These three things working together synergistically helped me navigate the lingering post COVID symptoms and get back to my everyday life. Heading into the Belgrade weekend, stamina was a big concern for me. My good friend and colleague Amy Likar and I talked about this in the days and weeks before Belgrade as I slowly continued to work through the recuperation process. She reminded me that Body Mapping was the very thing that would be there when I needed it most and to be sure to give myself plenty of time for constructive rest.
(Perfect advice, Amy – thank you!)
The beauty of Body Mapping is that every class I teach is an opportunity for me to continue to bring awareness to my Use of Self, especially in the most difficult moments. Saturday night on stage, Body Mapping helped me to stay present and grounded and move fluidly through whole-body balance and ease.
It was a phenomenal weekend, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to visit Belgrade and be welcomed into this beautiful community of musicians. Thank you to Snježana, Andrea, Nataša, the Serbian Flute Association, and everyone else who played a role in making the weekend a success!
Rena Urso is a member of the faculties at California State University Long Beach and California State University Stanislaus, and a Course Coordinator for California State University Summer Arts – home to her popular biennial summer flute course, The Complete 21st Century Flutist at CSU Summer Arts. As a Licensed Body Mapping Educator, she presents Body Mapping workshops and masterclasses all over the world. Rena is also a teaching artist at the International Piccolo Flute Academy. An active freelance musician in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a member of the Oakland Symphony, the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra, and Alcyone Ensemble. Additionally, she is a certified yoga and meditation instructor and member of the NFA Performance Health Committee. Rena lives in the Chicago area with her husband John and their dogs Lillie, Po, and Girl. She is available for personal or group Zoom Body Mapping sessions.