Special Goodbyes

Violinist Lucy Morganstern helps people grieve their dying pets

Volume 115, No. 10October, 2015

Patch Schwadron
Lucy Morganstern, a member of Local 802 since 1966, has developed a special side career in helping people grieve over dying and deceased pets.

Lucy Morganstern, a member of Local 802 since 1966, has developed a special side career in helping people grieve over dying and deceased pets.

A native New Yorker, violinist Lucy Morganstern grew up in a musical household. Her mother, a pianist, graduated from Juilliard at 18; her older brother and sister studied cello and violin. “My musical training was not typical,” Lucy relates. After attending one year of conservatory, a chance meeting while on vacation in Mexico motivated her to attend a Danish school to take a Eutony course, a mind/body relaxation training she explains is similar to Feldenkrais and Alexander techniques. “This work completely changed my approach and orientation to the violin,” Lucy said. She realized then that in addition to music, she loved learning and had a deep interest in healing modalities. A career-long freelancer who trained with private teachers, Lucy currently performs with the American Ballet Theater orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra. Lucy joined 802 at age 16, when playing on tour with the Joffrey Ballet.

In recent years, Lucy has been also developing her business of creating and conducting memorial ceremonies and celebrations in honor of deceased pets ( She came to the Career Center at the Actors Fund (formerly the Actors Fund Work Program), where I am the career counselor supervisor, at the suggestion of a childhood friend who is also an Actors Fund employee, for support and guidance in building her business skills and confidence.

The Career Center at the Actors Fund is not just for actors. We help entertainment professionals of all types – including musicians – develop career skills that can help with your primary art form (i.e. music) or with parallel or sideline careers. A side career can support your musical life with new income, or it can propel you into new opportunities for success.

Lucy recalls that she was getting concerned about the diminishing amount of performing opportunities and knew she wanted to create another income stream doing something of value. She found that her love of animals and her lifetime of studying a range of healing modalities (including Brain Gym, Tellington TTouch, flower remedies and distance healing) were evolving into a service that people seemed to need.

“There is a deep grief running through our society over the loss of pets, an epidemic of grief,” Lucy told me. “I realized this was a mission for me to create events to honor pets when they die and to support people when they know their pets are dying.”

Lucy serves as a minister to create ceremonies and also performs intuitive improvisations on the violin, reflecting the moment and spirit of the celebration. She also offers support to people who are addressing the possibility of euthanizing their pets as well as energy sessions with the animals themselves.

Lucy also realized that she needed more than word of mouth to grow her business, but did not have a business orientation. She recalls, “Growing up with humanist parents – a musician mother and a father who worked for a large union – I learned that ‘business’ was a dirty word!”

At the Career Center, Lucy regularly attended Monday networking meetings, a resume writing workshop, and a range of monthly career panels conducted at Local 802, including one focusing on small business and entrepreneurship resources. Working with her career counselor, Ell Miocene, Lucy followed up on contacts at the FEGS workforce program and the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College. One contact at FEGS invited Lucy to participate on a panel entitled “Turn What You Know How to Do Into Income,” helping Lucy to build confidence in her ideas. At Baruch, she has been working with a business coach, Stan Kohlenberg, for over a year.

Recently, Lucy’s work was reported in the New York Times and even in a Brazilian magazine. A podcast of one of her services is in production. Earlier this year, she was filmed discussing her work at conference called the Art of Dying. “The climate surrounding death is changing,” Lucy observes. “We are turning around and facing death.”

Lucy gives credit to the Career Center at the Actors Fund for helping her to follow her passion. “The program has been helpful to me in so many ways. I have received career counseling, networking opportunities, exposure to business development resources and lots of great advice by superb professionals who are not only terrific at what they do, but who are unfailingly encouraging, supportive and invested in my success.”

All Local 802 members are eligible to utilize the Career Center at the Actors Fund. For more information, see or call (212) 221-7300. New member orientations are held almost every Monday (except for holidays), from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. at 729 Seventh Avenue on the 10th Floor. No reservations are required – just show up.