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.
Over the next few issues, we’ll be discussing the work/life balance for musicians. How do you keep the music going while staying healthy and professionally connected? In this issue I’ll introduce you to trumpeter Anna Garcia, who has had a very inspiring go at using her creativity to stay connected and healthy.
Anna is a member of Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the first and only all-female mariachi band in New York City. She comes from a family of jazz musicians, who influenced her style, and is a classically trained graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. In 2010, Anna moved to NYC and won the International Trumpet Guild Solo Competition. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, among many other top venues. She has worked in music education through The Harmony Program, teaches privately in her home, and has founded a start-up called Juice Crawl (more on that later). She is very focused on helping to develop a healthy culture in the music business. As a full-time musician, she was able to take advantage of the free career counseling through the Actors Work Program, which is how we came to meet. I recently sat down with her to discuss how it happened that she became interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle as a musician.
Siena Shundi: How did you get interested in health-related issues as a musician?
Anna Garcia: When I was living in Kansas City, I developed severe cystic acne. After a number of failed treatments, I finally tried Accutane. I was desperate. How you appear affects how you are in the world. This is especially true for performing artists.
Siena Shundi: It was making it challenging to work?
Anna Garcia: Well, yes – it affects your self-esteem. If you don’t know what Accutane is, it is a very intense drug that you use as a last option to clear up acne. It’s so intense that many people experience emotional side effects. I can tell you I wasn’t happy on that drug. But it worked, at least temporarily. But when I moved to NYC, the acne suddenly returned. I didn’t want to have to take Accutane again but it seemed like the only option. Alongside acne, I had started developing type II diabetes. This was a wake-up call. So I got into running and learned about nutrition. I knew vegetables were important so I tried a juice cleanse for a week. I’m an all-or-nothing person so I jumped in and drank the greenest of green juices. It was amazing. In one week, I could significantly see improvements in my skin. The result were quicker than any other drugs I had tried. I finally realized that what you put in your body is important. After the juice cleanse and after I rebooted my taste buds, I started my new life with a vegan diet. After four months as a vegan, there was no diabetes to be seen. Eight months in and irregular cycles became regular. It felt like magic. I had lots of energy and became very excited about this new life. Vegan food is very artful to me. I love learning recipes!
Siena Shundi: Wow! So you took that creativity and precision as a musician and channeled it into self-care?
Anna Garcia: Yes – I’m creative and it’s fun! Music and nutrition are my passions. Green juice holds a special place for me because it started my new life. Music and nutrition are related. Your body is your instrument. You only have one so you have to take care of it.
Siena Shundi: How would you describe green juice?
Anna Garcia: It’s vegetable juice – usually kale, spinach, parsley, with apple and lemon, or celery – anything green, really. Think about this. How much juice comes from one spinach leaf? Not much, right? So you need a whole lot of green to make a cup of juice. Essentially, you are flooding your body with nutrients! Green juice is the best way to rapidly consume nutrients. So through this process I learned that if you give your body what it needs and give yourself some space, it will heal.
Siena Shundi: All this from becoming vegan and drinking lots of juice?
Anna Garcia: Yes.
Siena Shundi: Wow. Preservatives and hormones in our food supply system are such a problem. But maybe we can back up a bit – how did this tie into your music life?
Anna Garcia: After this new diet change, I didn’t want to drink alcohol anymore. I was learning that I didn’t like how it made my body feel. Drinking is such a huge part of society – there is an alienation in choosing not to drink alcohol because there is that social element in drinking. I think this is especially the case for musicians. I mean, what do you do? You usually hear, “Let’s celebrate and have a drink. Let’s go out for a drink after a concert.” Why does it have to be this way?
Siena Shundi: It has to be tough in the music industry. You’re playing in bars.
Anna Garcia: Yes! Why can’t bars have healthier options? Many musicians are not aware of healthier choices and if they are, we sometimes don’t have as many options given our situations.
Siena Shundi: So tell me about Juice Crawl.
Anna Garcia: I wanted to create a space to have fun and where it is okay to be healthy. This is what Juice Crawl is all about. That social aspect is really important. Juice Crawl is a play on the traditional pub crawl. It’s a social event in which participants drink cold-pressed juice at a series of juice bars. Our first Juice Crawl took place in mid-October. We started with a workout and pre-game drinks to get everyone pumped! Then our mariachi band performed. We sat with juice, danced with juice and drank juice shots. It was great! There were also prizes, like a sponsored three-day juice cleanse. I’m very excited. I’ve had a lot of support and interest. I plan to have more. You can sign up for my mailing list to learn about other events. You can go to www.JuiceCrawl.com. Our Facebook and Twitter links are there also.
Siena Shundi: What a great idea, Anna! So creative and innovative. You know, I often hear how hard it is to stay healthy as a musician living in NYC. It’s so great that you doing this. We support it! What if people are interested in learning more about eating healthy?
Anna Garcia: I’d recommend Kris Carr’s book “Crazy Sexy Diet.” I’d also like to invite everyone to register for my Juice Crawl online. It’s only growing from here! I might start posting health tips. Let’s see how we can make being healthy fun and social!