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In Tune With Massage
Playing the piano is about more than making music for massage therapist Joey Freeman. He says it also improves his ability to give massage.
Freeman is an amateur piano player who last year placed as a semifinalist in the Van Cliburn International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. In addition to his regular massage practice he offers piano-recital-and-massage sessions, with 40 minutes of classical piano and 90 minutes of massage.
While enrolled at the Atlanta School of Massage, Freeman realized that music was contributing to his ability to give massage, both physically and emotionally. "I discovered that I gave better massages if passages from Liszt [or] Chopin were running through my head. I was struck by how piano playing helps contribute to a musical flow of the massage," he said. "Both music and massage deal with tension and release as well as energetic flow and repose."
The sensitive touch that piano playing requires also helped Freeman during his massage sessions. "Practicing piano refines my tactical sensitivity as well as enhancing the strength of my hands and fingers," he said. As well, he found that playing piano increased his sense of empathy for others. He explains: "As an interpretive artist I must be open to the uniqueness of the composer. As a massage therapist I must be open to the uniqueness of my client."
The annual Van Cliburn International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs was held in June in Fort Worth, Texas. The competition draws amateur pianists from all walks of life. When the semifinals were finished, backstage volunteer Kathie Cummins half-jokingly asked Freeman if he was planning to massage the competitors and staff. When he said he would, she rented a massage chair for him to set up at the competition. The response to an offer of free massage was enthusiastic. Freeman said that some of the competitors who had not had massage previously said they were "surprised at how much better they felt after the massage." Competitor David Leehey, M.D., from Illinois, said, "It definitely helped. I have been going to a massage therapist, so when I saw there was one [at the competition] offering free massage, I took advantage of it."
Freeman walked away from the competition with renewed enthusiasm. "I believe [that] in combining my perspectives as a musician and as a massage therapist, I have access to two of the most powerful means of human communication anyone could imagine."