The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at map@Local802afm.org or (212) 397-4802.
This month, as part of our series on how musicians can bring more balance to their lives, I interviewed Karin Fantus, instructor of the free Pilates classes at Local 802, which my office sponsors. Karin is a certified Pilates instructor and has a special interest in helping professional musicians tune up their bodies from the wear and tear of performing.
Siena: We’ve had a huge response to the body awareness and Pilates classes offered here at Local 802. Why do you think that musicians are so interested in body work?
Karin: 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.
Siena: I asked a few musicians who participated in your classes about what they were working on personally. I heard a lot about chronic upper-body tightness. What are the main issues that you have found musicians need to work on?
Karin: 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.
Siena: I remember when I took a class with you and then went to the gym and used your tools before my workout. I felt so much more energetic and limber.
Karin: That’s the idea. I think it’s really important to help musicians relax and realign. Then we get can into body mechanics – and later on, Pilates. It’s about reprogramming the nervous system. It’s a never-ending process about how to use the body more efficiently.
Siena: So what got you interested in helping musicians with bodywork?
Karin: I was an applied voice major at Boston University. I wanted to continue with music, but initially I focused on making a living. Three or four years ago, I was inspired by a a client of mine who is an opera singer. She started sending students to me to reinforce their core strength. This piqued my interest and I began taking voice lessons with her – I hadn’t sung in over 30 years! I loved going to the practice room. Since I was already trained in Pilates, I made the music and physical connection naturally. I loved the process of learning, so that the more voice lessons I take, the more connections for musicians I see. Teaching musicians bodywork is combining two things that I love. I am so in awe of professional musicians and really appreciate what they do.
Siena: So it was a natural progression. Well, we’re really lucky to have you with us, Karin. We’re looking forward to our next series. We discussed restructuring the series per request from participating members. We will be offering two levels: a beginner body awareness class, and an advanced Pilates exercise class. Both classes start Friday, Jan. 23 and both are free to Local 802 members, but the classes fill up fast and we often have to create a waitlist. (See info below.)
Karin: Yes! This way I can still teach the foundation to new people and give the seasoned class members who have learned the techniques a pure Pilates class.
FREE PILATES AND BODY WORK 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 bodyworker 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.
A series of eight Fridays, from Jan. 23 to March 13
- Beginner body awareness class meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
- Pilates exercise class meets from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (You must have taken a class with Karin previously in order to register for the Pilates class.)
Location (in Midtown Manhattan) will be given out once you register. To register, contact Anya Turner at (212) 397-4802 or ATurner@Local802afm.org