Judith Kleinman: musician & Alexander technique teacher

Estimated reading time:8 minutes, 11 seconds

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. What are you like? Same as you were when young or very different? Musician Judith Kleinman is a proper north Londoner – artistic and community minded who is as likely to be training the best young musicians, playing a the local street party or helping a stiff office worker understand the potential of the Alexander Technique. Interview by Nicola Baird. Interview by Nicola Baird

Judith Kleinman: xxx

Judith Kleinman: expert musician and Alexander Technique trainer.

Judith Kleinman was brought up in North London by an actress mum* and a lawyer dad. She went to a progressive Hampstead school, King Alfred’s and became a musician. She home schooled her kids. With husband Peter Buckoke she developed an expertise in the Alexander Technique that led to them writing a must-read book for musicians, The Alexander Technique for Musicians, published by Bloomsbury, and have a role as assistant-director of the London Centre for Alexander Technique & Training.


ISLINGTON FACES LIVE – to celebrate islingtonfacesblog’s 100th interview there will be a one-off live event with Nicola Baird at the King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street on Saturday 25 October 2014, from 3-5pm. Tickets are £5 in advance at https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873523048/events  or call the box office on 0207 478 0160. Tickets on the door will be £6.

Expect to meet local royalty – the Pearly King of Finsbury; a stargazer from Highbury Fields; stunning Ethiopian singer Hanisha Solomon; Joanna Bevan who runs a unique language cafe at Archway, the Mayor of Islington plus others.

This event is to fundraise for King’s Head Theatre.  islingtonfacesblog is delighted that Barnaby’s hairdressing salon at Highbury Barn is sponsoring the show.


In 1978 Judith’s parents moved to 14 Highbury Terrace, on Highbury Fields when she was 19 and studying double bass and cello at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

“It was incredibly special – a grand house divided into flats. As a family we moved into the flats so we could be together yet be separate; my mum had a gallery and my two brothers and I could live independently. I was on tour a lot but stayed there until my late 20s.

The same year as the move to Islington – 1978 – Judith was a passenger in a car crash. “After the crash I just couldn’t get comfortable but there were Alexander Technqiue lessons available at the Guildhall. They made me feel easier and helped with performance anxiety. I was lucky the lessons were there.”

Female black poplar in Finsbury Park - just one of many special trees.

Female black poplar in Finsbury Park – just one of many special trees.

What Judith Kleinman likes about Islington

  • The Park Theatre is wonderful. My mother was an actress and one of my sons is an actor, so it’s perfect for us.
  • I love the parks but I really love Finsbury Park. Years ago there was a lot of problems but now it is lovely as you go up the hill you get this lovely vista of London and there are really special trees. It’s especially good if you have dogs – and we have two whippets.
  • Everyone loves Hampstead Heath but people living around Finsbury Park are so lucky to have open spaces and live in an artistic academic life in a really multicultural borough.
  • I’ve been gluten free for the past two years and I am vegetarian so Dotori is good. Sometimes we go to the Ethiopian place on Rock Street. If we go out for breakfast or snacks we go to Cinnamon Village 2.
  • There are two fruit and veg shops we are so lucky to have on Blackstock Road.
  • There are two terrific nicky-nacky-noo shops on Blackstock Road – Carol at Louis Farouk and Gathering Moss. l also like the glass etching shop by the furniture shop near Ambler Primary School.

Home schooling
After meeting her husband Peter Buckoke, who is also a musician, she moved with him to 108 St Thomas’ Road. In 1992 they moved again, to a bigger house on Plimsoll Road. “Music was such a big part of our lives and by then we’d both trained to be Alexander teachers so needed a work room for that. They also needed space for their young sons, Harry, now 23, and Abe, 20, and a garden for the bee hives which are Peter’s great passion.

“The boys went to a Steiner nursery but we home educated from then till sixth form,” says Judith. “Everyone is more influenced by home, we’re all home educators. Schools are great – but one of the biggest reasons we chose to home educate was to let them feel in charge of their interests. When kids are interested they learn very quickly.” And she should know given that she’s spent a lifetime teaching children and young adults the Alexander technique at the world-renowned Royal College and Royal Academy of Music. She also teaches adults on an Alexander training course 2 mornings a week, teaching practical anatomy, voice work and movement.

Judith’s a big proponent of home schooling but points out that, “We were lucky as there were like-minded families in Islington. A lot of people are wary that they are not going to meet anyone if they home school but the problem for us was how to stay at home! There was always something wonderful on in London, eg, at the National Gallery, and we made real use of Islington.”

Clearly they did a brilliant job. Harry went to Cambridge University and is now studying in the US. Like his elder brother, Abe went to the sixth form of Camden School for Girls and is now at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.


Plimsoll Road street party: Judith Kleinman and family’s musical performances are a favourite.

Following your heart
What’s so special about Judith’s career is that she has managed to perform and teach. “Plimsoll Road street parties are a highlight,” she says humouring her neighbours. But she had a job at ENO and loved playing opera there and also playing Beethoven’s Ninth at the Barbican with Sir Roger Norrington (famous for conducting the Last Night of the Proms) and The London Classical Players .

“Another highlight was playing a piece at the Purcell Room written for Peter and me, by Judith Weir (Master of the Queen’s Music now) called, What Sounds Would Chase Elephants Away?” I have been very lucky to travel and play, and play with great conductors and orchestras,” she says with typical modesty.

So how did Judith get into music? “When you are in your teens being in an orchestra is very social,” she explains. But to make a career in music requires something much deeper: “Moving and making a sound is an art. I love the way sound is sensory and sparks off emotions and the imagination. My parents were into art and really wordy, but music is like poetry. Developing a skill – it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s on an instrument or even hairdressing – is tremendously enriching for young people. It gives you another identity and a depth; a resilience. You have to move into a territory where you accept yourself and know you can develop,” she explains.

Undoubtedly Judith’s self-knowledge has been deepened by studying the Alexander Technique. “In some ways the Alexander technique is a Western martial art. We are a very analytical crowd so this embodied mindfulness is very useful. Lots of Islington folk come to see me from all walks of life – barristers, carpet layers, taxi drivers and of course I see a lot of musicians. Everyone thinks they want to get their posture right so I don’t suddenly go all transcendental. I have to listen and go at their pace. I find very few people drop out because it’s like coming home to yourself when you experience your body becoming lighter. It’s so delightful to have a practical toolkit of ideas for this.”

We live in an incredible community. I feel so blessed to be on Plimsoll Road. What we have in N4 is a pretty diverse and friendly community who are multi everything – age, ethnicity, religion – but with the house prices going up we are beginning to lose the artists and everyday folk and see the road filling with bankers and lawyers. There’s a part of me that feels sad for our kids, the next generation. It was such a privilege to live near your family as I did.

“Living in such a mixed area makes you think: it’s like travelling.” Then she adds, perhaps with transcendental understanding: “Life is about change and accepting it gracefully.”

Mary Kleinman, actress and gallery owner.

Over to you
Would you like to nominate someone to be interviewed? Or would you like to write a guest post for this blog? if the answer is yes for either please email nicolabaird.green@gmail.com

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right). @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola