School’s Most Important Lesson

World-renowned Alexander Technique teacher believes students should never stop learning


Whitney Bolar for The Easterner

William Conable teaches the Alexander Technique at EWU and around the world

By Logan Stahl, Staff Reporter

Bill Conable lives in Cheney, but he travels the world teaching the Alexander technique.

The Alexander technique is a specialized method that teaches one how to improve movement and coordination. Most of the students Conable has taught are performing arts students, such as musicians.

Conable received the opportunity to learn the Alexander technique from his cello professor at Ohio State University. Conable decided to go to graduate school to continue to learn the Alexander technique.

Conable provides private Alexander technique lessons, but he also travels to places like North Carolina and Japan each year to teach workshops. He teaches at the Holy Names Community Music Center in Spokane.

Playing the cello and teaching the Alexander technique have made up a large portion of Conable’s career since he studied music in college. He earned his bachelor’s at The University of Illinois and he received his doctorate degree from Boston University.  

Conable moved to Cheney in 2008 when his wife accepted a faculty position at EWU. Before moving to Cheney, Conable was a music professor teaching cello at The University of Ohio for 36 years. While living in Columbus, he was the principal cellist for the Columbus Symphony.

Being a conductor is another path Conable has taken. He was the conductor of the Ohio Light Opera Company, but he also conducted at Ohio State. Now, Conable solely focuses on teaching the Alexander technique.

However, when Conable was in college, he wanted to be a cello teacher.

“I realized what I really wanted to do was teach cello at a university, that was my career goal and I did it,” Conable said.

Some of Conable’s biggest influences include his first cello professor, Peter Farrell, and the two main Alexander teachers.

He has also worked with one of the most accomplished American cellist, Leslie Parnas. Parnas has performed at the White House for former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Parnas has also played alongside the New York Philharmonic symphony.

Conable’s advice to college-aged students is to never stop learning and spend time with people that are fascinating.

“Learn as much as you can for your entire life and find things and people that are interesting and spend as much time with them as you can, that’s the most important thing,” Conable said.

Another piece of advice that Conable wants college students to know is that studying and doing well in class is important, but learning to interact and see how teachers perceive the world is even more important.

“If you have had a great teacher, you know what really happened is by being around them, you got a feel for how they were engaging in the world, much more than anything they told you,” said Conable. “What you learn from a teacher is coming to understand how they think.”  

This allowed Conable to learn and think for himself. And even when Conable moved to Cheney as a retired professor, he has learned more in the last nine years than he ever has.

“I’m almost 75 and just last week I learned something phenomenally important; [it] changed the way I view everything,” Conable said.

In his time outside of teaching, Conable likes to garden, program computers and is an avid reader.

“I learn stuff; I don’t know what I’m going to find myself interested in next,” Conable said.