Health Matters: 21 Organizations That Help Working Musicians in New York
A working musician’s lifestyle can get unhealthy quickly: late nights, long weeks or months on tour, exposure to loud noises, and the stress of being called upon to perform day after day.
Certainly, most of these issues are simply professional hazards — but they also require some preventative measures and sometimes even medical attention. Below are 21 organizations that offer healthcare, wellness-focused and financial support to professional musicians in New York.
If you’ve found that the realities of a musician’s working life are beginning to catch up to you, have a look through this list. There is someone in the city who can affordably take care of you.
Unions, Guilds and Membership-Based Organizations
The Associated Musicians of Greater New York is one of the world’s largest local unions for professional musicians. The union advocates on behalf of working musicians, offers emergency relief, has a fund for disabled musicians, and provides many other services beyond the scope of health and wellness.
PAMA operates worldwide, bringing together medical professionals and artists every year for its annual symposium: Medical Problems of Performing Artists. If you are on the fence about whether a PAMA membership is right for you, check out the site’s library of video interviews with professionals who have participated in the symposia.
The AGVA is another union that has spent decades negotiating minimum pay, health benefits and sick leave for its working professionals. AGVA also operates its Sick & Relief Fund to help out members with everything from medical expenses to telephone bills when they are in financial need.
This organization brings together two unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, both of which have worked for the past 80 years to secure health benefits and safe working conditions — among many other things — for its members.
The International Society for Music Education has a special interest group that produces conferences on health and wellness for musicians, and the group specifically targets educators for these conferences. “Educating musicians on this crucial information will positively affect the wellbeing of countless future musicians throughout the world, helping to stem the growing numbers of injured musicians and also providing strategies for maintaining their psychological health,” ISME writes.
Health and Wellness Specialists
A wellness consultant for the New York City Ballet, Dr. Linda Hamilton is a specialist in the field of performance psychology, and she offers therapy to a number of musicians in the city. “[Dr. Hamilton’s] interest in reducing stress and enhancing performance has led to an extensive body of research and clinical work with different performers — from the film, stage, music and other industries,” her site reads.
In 2010, Juilliard-trained flutist Nicole Newman opened a yoga studio specifically for musicians who were dealing with performance anxiety and/or looking to prevent or rehabilitate an injury. Nicole also has a BA in psychology from NYU, an MA in education from Queens College, and a certification as a yoga instructor from the Yoga Alliance. Bonus points: She is studying for her doctorate in physical therapy and can read Sanskrit.
The New York Ear and Eye Infirmary of Mount Sinai has a special department dedicated to swallowing issues and voice problems. Professional singers from Broadway stages and the Metropolitan Opera rely on the specialists here whenever any kind of vocal health issue arises.
Another Juilliard graduate, Dr. Noa Kageyama focuses on the mental aspects of performance, and he coaches musicians around the world via Skype on handling the pressure of having to actually get on stage and perform. “I work with musicians who have an upcoming performance or audition that they aren’t willing to leave to chance,” Dr. Kageyama writes. “Clients have ranged from key members of major international orchestras to up-and-coming pre-professionals and young performers preparing for national/international competitions.”
Sweet Relief is designed to help any and all career musicians in need, and it does so by driving donations to a couple of funds, The General Fund and The Music Cancer Fund. Sweet Relief’s roster of donors read likes a who’s who of American music, which also opens up the opportunity for some pretty cool charity auctions.
The Jazz Foundation provides multiple types of relief for the people who play this uniquely American genre of music. Those relief outlets include pro bono medical attention to uninsured jazz musicians, emergency housing, and opportunities for elder musicians to perform and teach in schools across the country.
The Handy Artists Relief Trust was established to give blues musicians and their families assistance during times of medical hardship. “The Fund provides for acute, chronic and preventive medical and dental care as well as funeral and burial expenses,” the site reads.
Herman Harper, a former member of the Oak Ridge Boys and president of The Harper Agency, established this fund in 1983 to provide gospel musicians with relief during emergencies, whether a medical issue or a catastrophe of some other kind.
The Recording Academy itself has a program for providing critical assistance to musicians in times of need called MusiCares. “MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community,” the Academy says.
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation was established in the late-1980s to preserve the cultural traditions R&B brought to America and to recognize the genre’s legacy. Part of this work includes supporting current R&B musicians in need of help. You can find instructions and the grant application here.
This nonprofit organization was established in 1994 to help blues and Southern roots musicians meet their day-to-day financial needs so their contributions to the music can continue to flourish. Relief is available to those musicians 55 or older with annual incomes of less than $18,000.
SOS supports vocalists nationwide through a variety of financial aid programs. It is available to anyone in need who “has derived his/her primary income as a professional singer for 5 years.”
Artist Access, at Woodhull Medical Center, gives uninsured musicians the chance to receive medical treatment in exchange for creative services, as described on the Council’s website: “The amount ranges from $15- $60 per visit. The artist can either pay the fee-scale amount or elect to earn credits with artistic services/performances to ‘pay’ off the medical service fees. Each hour of service/performance is equal to 40 credits that can be used immediately or banked for future use.”
Professional artists are two times more likely than the average American to lack health insurance, and HINT is an information resource for uninsured musicians. HINT itself does not provide insurance, but rather consultations as to how to go about getting affordable coverage.
Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers is a great organization especially for younger musicians. This nonprofit works to get the word out on how harmful prolonged exposure to loud noises (mic hiss, feedback, nightly basement shows) can be for a person’s hearing. “Damage to hearing is typically cumulative and irreversible, not immediately detectable, and it can occur from almost any contemporary music source or event,” H.E.A.R.’s site notes.
AHIRC provides a huge, nationwide database of healthcare resources for musicians and performing artists. You can head straight to the New York section of the directory or perhaps bookmark some of the site’s most valuable informational resources:
- Healthcare Reform Basics
- Medicare Basics
- Help with Medicare Costs
- Getting Medications Discounted or Free
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