Joan and Alexander Murray
Illinois Arts Legacy Award
Throughout their 40-plus years in Urbana, Joan and Alexander Murray have given generously of their time to teaching our students and faculty in the Alexander Technique. They are being honored for their immense knowledge, continuing curiosity and commitment in evolving their teaching practices, and generosity in offering lessons and training to students, faculty, and the community.
The Alexander Technique is named after Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869–1955), who developed a method to retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture. Joan and Alex Murray began their Alexander training in 1955 with one of Alexander’s first trainees. At the time, Joan was a leading dancer on the London musical stage and Alex was principal flute in the London Symphony Orchestra. When Charles Neil, their first teacher, died in 1958, their training as teachers began with Walter Carrington, who continued Alexander’s training course after his death in 1955.
In 1967 they moved to East Lansing, Michigan, as Alex was appointed flute professor at Michigan State University. Joan built up a flourishing teaching practice there. From 1974 to 1977 they resided in the Hague, Holland, when Alex became a professor at the Royal Dutch Conservatory.
In 1977, a professorship in the University of Illinois School of Music drew them to Urbana, where they continue to live after retiring in 2003. In the last 40 years, they have continually trained teachers of the Alexander Technique. More than 130 fulfilled a three-year requirement (1600 hours of instruction) as stipulated by the American Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. Several of these teachers play a valuable role in the performing arts locally.
Joan and Alex hope the seed sown in this community will continue to germinate and the many friends they owe to Alexander will continue to demonstrate skill and collegiality in this important cultural center.
In 2015, Alex received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Flute Association of which he was a founding member.
A nominator wrote, “Their combined knowledge of what is required of performing artists and their deep understanding of the Alexander Technique has made them an invaluable asset to the arts community at the University of Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana community. They have been inspirational to so many over decades, not for gain on their part, but simply to share the work.”