Change is in the Air

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 115, No. 12December, 2015

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R
Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

This month will be my last column, as I will be leaving my position here to have a child at the end of the year. I’ll be taking some time off so I can spend time being a mom, then will be working in my private practice starting in the spring. I will miss the Local 802 community. It’s been a meaningful experience helping artists thrive. It’s going to be a transformation for me personally and professionally. And it turns out that the Musicians’ Assistance Program here at Local 802 will also be going through its own transformation in 2016. More on that below.

First, I’d like to share my thoughts about the push and pull between family and career. This is something I’ve heard about from many of you and now something I’m going to experience for myself!

Having your own business or gig is a full-time commitment – you get all the freedom but also all of the responsibility. For me, my private practice has been my “baby” – I had to save, plan and sacrifice to give “birth” to it in 2008. Then I had to “nurse” it by hiring accountants and web developers. I had to develop relationships with doctors, insurance companies and billing services. When my practice “grew up” and could run on its own a few years ago, I was able to take on additional responsibilities like advanced psychoanalytic training – and ultimately my position here at Local 802.

These days, musicians must also grow their trade and market themselves much like any other small business owner. Doing so involves a great deal of perseverance, creativity and organization. It’s an ongoing job. But life must also go on. And life is really no fun and no joy without the special people in our lives. We need to have friends and family, including biological family and “chosen family.” So how do you balance it all? Looking into the immediate future, I want to be able to spend some time just focusing on being a mother. I’m lucky that my husband has good benefits and I can configure my private practice to be part time once I am ready to return to work, but I won’t be able to continue to do “everything.”

I really believe that the ongoing balance of life and work is just that – ongoing. Your work-life balance requires flexibility for expected or unexpected changes, like moving from full-time work to part-time work…and having a baby!

Speaking of changes – due to some current fundraising issues, the Local 802 Musicians’ Assistance Program as it currently functions will be taking a little hiatus. Don’t worry: the services aren’t disappearing! At least through the end of December, you can still call us at (212) 397-4802 and our administrative assistant Anya Turner will answer your questions. Our social worker intern, Elaine Davenport, will now be based out of the Actors Fund, just down the street at 729 Seventh Avenue (between West 48th and West 49th). The Actors Fund will also administer all of the services we had been offering, including free short-term counseling, and referrals for housing and affordable health insurance. The web site of the Actors Fund is and its phone number is (212) 221-7300, ext. 119. The Local 802 administration is fully committed to making sure that members still have access to all services and is researching ways to make the services more permanent. Please have patience with them while they figure it all out!

We know that change is inevitable. But professional musicians have been dealt a lot of changes over the past 20 years, including the internet revolution and the change in the live music scene. A lot of the time I’ve spent with musicians has involved helping them stay connected with each other. In that spirit, I am making arrangements for the two flagship groups we offer – the Musicians’ Networking Group and the Pilates/Bodywork workshop – to continue in 2016, either administered by the Actors Fund or coordinated by Local 802. We don’t have dates for 2016 yet, but please stay tuned.

It’s been my pleasure learning and growing with you as you navigate work and life with courage and commitment. Don’t forget to take care of yourselves during the holidays Also: don’t feel too much pressure to spend a lot of money, don’t forget to do your taxes, and get off your cell phone and go see your friends in person! Have a happy and healthy holiday season and a safe and prosperous new year. Goodbye, and I hope to see you again!