9: The people who got me out of pain, and convinced me, even when I didn’t believe it, that I would make it through.


This topic deserves a lot more detail than I’m about to give, because I feel like musicians’ injuries are often not talked about even by those (and there are many) who have experienced them. Now that I’m able to say my nerve-related neck-related hand/arm injury is safely behind me, it’s easy enough most days to forget it ever happened. This in and of itself is something to be grateful for.

I hope at some point my experiences might help other people avoid injury or recover from it, but I need to come up with a more organized way of presenting those thoughts.  If anyone reading this is living with pain and tension that’s hampering their creative force, please don’t hesitate to reach out – now, or anytime. Of course, I’m by no means a professional. I do know a few, though…

I want to point to some really exceptional, knowledgeable, and heartwarming people who helped me in my recovery.

Ariel Kiley & YuMee Cheung of YogaTuneUp

You guys really have to check out YogaTuneUp. This is essentially free massage therapy, tailored exactly to your needs, because you make it happen. Ariel is an awesomely funny and exuberant teacher and there are others in New York (and other cities – like YuMee in Toronto, who first told me about YTU). Check it out! Get your hands on some balls…

Brian Goonan of PhyisoFitness

A couple of months ago, I was in Toronto to play some concerts. Travelling is always a bit of an ordeal, especially with two saxophones – and winter. All through the customs line and in transit I adjusted the position of my shoulder blades, tried to lift and carry things the way PhysioFitness showed me, worried a bit that the strain of the trip would cause the nerve pain in my hands and arms to return. In my head I smiled to hear Brian’s voice: “You gotta live!,” and trusted in how much stronger I’ve become since the last time I travelled. I knew I would have time to do the exercises that keep me in good shape the next morning. Despite the Polar Vortex freezing Pearson airport to a standstill, I managed to get to Toronto just in time for the first show.

Midway through my stay in Toronto I was playing jazz standards as background music at a corporate event. This kind of gig is rarely relished for anything more than the paycheck and the camaraderie of other musicians; the conditions are not usually favourable for making great music. A couple hours in, I caught myself completely immersed in the music – despite all the distractions in the room. I could hear everything. More clearly than I ever had, even before my injury. There was absolutely nothing diverting my attention from the music itself. And I realized: this is what it is like to be free from pain.

About 16 months ago, I came in to PhysioFitness unable to use a pen to fill in the intake forms due to the amount of pain my hands and arms were in. Brian and the whole team provided incredibly thorough, knowledgeable, and compassionate care. Above and beyond that, Brian deeply planted the idea that I could become better – not just out of pain, but even better than I was before. Honestly, at the time I found it impossible to believe. Now, it’s just reality.

Kristin Mozeiko of Alexander Technique Brooklyn

In the midst of completing my Masters degree in composition, I “suddenly” developed a nerve condition in my hands and arms that meant constant pain whenever I played, used the computer, and even when I was doing nothing at all. Luckily, I was enrolled in Kristin’s Alexander Technique class at the time. She was the one who told me, “you will get through this. You will get better.” It felt impossible to believe that at the time; I will always be grateful to Kristin for saying it, repeatedly, and for being part of the reason it was true.

Kristin is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about anatomy, the interaction of body systems, and mind-body connections. She’s a skillful teacher who demonstrates compassion by being unbelievably patient, but also by being firm – she wont let me off the hook when I sink back into old patterns that aren’t serving me.

For the months that I was in crisis, the Alexander table work with Kristin gave me my only pain-free moments. In the longer view, practicing the Technique with Kristin’s guidance has transformed my conceptions of posture and technique, in particular breathing, which had always been a struggle for me to conceptualize.

The amazing thing about the practice of the Alexander Technique is that it helps me move with more ease and comfort whether I am in pain or I am feeling good – there is always this room for greater awareness, and the Technique provides direction to guide that awareness into physical reality.

I’m very grateful to know Kristin and to be her student. I would encourage any musician to get to know her to find ways of improving body habits before encountering a repetitive use injury like mine.

Leah Matalon

A multi-disciplinary healer and unbelievably luminous soul. If you have the chance to take one of her workshops or classes I highly recommend it.

This post is part of a non-hierarchical 10-day countdown to the launch of the EP, and to the first date of our tour, expressing my immeasurable gratitude to the many folk who’ve contributed directly to realization of the music that’s happening on Paper Birds and/or to the the physical object that is the CD itself. The names are weblinks, so go see/hear what these folks are doing out there in the world wide web.