A career as a musician comes with many rewards, but one of the physical challenges is the stress placed on the body by repetitive movement and having to hold your body and instrument in particular ways for long periods of time. Surveys of symphony members, for example, found between 64 percent and 76 percent suffer from complaints of the arms, neck, or shoulders. Repetitive motions, awkward positions and excessive force can all lead to pain and injury, which can hinder performance and impact your quality of life. To help address these health issues, Local 802’s Musicians’ Assistance Program offers two free exercise class series: Core Strength 101 (to learn how to use core strength in everything you do) and Body Mechanics (to use that core strength to re-center your body and minimize work-related aches and pains). Now entering their fourth year, these classes – built on principles of Pilates and other popular exercise methods – are taught by Karin Fantus, a certified instructor of Pilates and the M.E.L.T. Method, who generously volunteers her time. “A little Friday afternoon oasis” is how one member described these classes. We are about to start our spring cycle and welcome new members. To help you better understand the benefits of this class, we offer excerpts below from an interview with Karin. (This interview was originally conducted by social worker Siena Shundi in 2015 and has been updated with new information.)
ACTORS FUND: How is body work helpful for musicians?
KARIN FANTUS: Professional musicians who have been in the business for a long time start to notice the toll that playing music takes on their bodies. They realize that over time their bodies aren’t quite what they used to be, but change comes on so gradually. Sometimes it takes someone else pointing it out to you. Musicians need to think about how their bodies will sustain them for the rest of their careers. In this class, we go beneath the surface and give musicians tools that can help them keep their bodies strong for playing music. In the classes I teach at Local 802, I share techniques that musicians can do on their own. I teach a foundation. Even as people get older physically, they can get younger functionally. I teach the core-strengthening techniques of Pilates along with relaxation techniques of the M.E.L.T. Method, to help musicians undo all the tricks and workarounds and compensating that they do to avoid pain when they play. We get them back to how their bodies are designed to work. I call this process Applied Body Logic.
ACTORS FUND: What are the main issues that you have found musicians need to work on?
KARIN FANTUS: The main issues for musicians are chronic soft tissue problems and repetitive stress. Just about all musical instruments require left and right sides to move differently – look at a violinist sometime! When our bodies get out of balance, some parts get overworked, which creates pain, stiffness and even injury. In our class, we focus on re-establishing balance from the inside out. We re-learn how to use core muscles to take the load off of overstressed muscles and joints. We’re basically learning how to tune our bodies to move with maximum efficiency. Like any other instrument, once the body is in tune, it plays much better. When we learn how to “play” the body better, our movements start to flow, and chronic pain and stiffness can disappear. Professional musicians get it better than anyone. Musicians want to continue their profession. Even the strong and fit ones want more. We show them how to release stress and regain flexibility.
Karin’s Applied Body Logic (as she calls her approach), has helped Local 802 member Jim Lutz, a trombonist, to counteract the negative effects of bad chairs, old habits and gravity. In addition, he has become more aware of his posture in daily life. Local 802 member and bassist Gary Morgan, another class member, says that “the exercises performed in Pilates offer the possibility of resetting the body to ‘ground zero’ and preventing unhealthy alignment habits.”
For information on the classes, see below.
The Actors Fund is your one-stop shop for almost any kind of service you can imagine. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, substance abuse counseling, financial counseling, food stamps and more. The Actors Fund is open to musicians, actors and all entertainment professionals. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or IntakeNY@ActorsFund.org or see ActorsFund.org
FREE CORE STRENGTH 101 AND BODY MECHANICS CLASSES
Do you want to improve your endurance, stop masking performance pain, give your body a tune-up, and learn strategies for lifelong health? Join bodywork instructor Karin Fantus for a series of free classes! You must be a Local 802 member, and pre-registration is required. Classes fill up early.
The classes meet on eight Fridays, from June 7 to July 26 (no class on July 5)
• CORE STRENGTH 101 (Level 1) class meets from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• BODY MECHANICS (Level 2) exercise class meets from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (You must have taken a class with Karin previously in order to register for the Body Mechanics class.)
To register, contact Tamar Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org