We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennie Morton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennie, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
This is an interesting question for me as I never really viewed myself as having a ‘business’ per se. My work grew organically through a process of seeking answers to questions that I had as a performing artist and the realization that others wanted to find these answers too. I come from a family of performers – I did my first professional film acting job aged 5, then toured for 5 years from the age of 8 performing a child role with a large Ballet company, so I was exposed to vagaries of the professional entertainment industry early.. As my Dad was a TV director, I spent a lot of time in TV studios surrounded by many prominent artists of the day and was acutely aware of the disparities between their personal and professional personae. My interest in behavioral health was borne from my childhood observations of the highs and lows many artists seemed to experience and the differences between the public perception of someone’s image and the personal reality. My adult professional career in the arts began as a classical Ballet dancer, then a musical theatre performer in London’s West End, included many theatre, film and TV acting roles, and culminated in ten years as lead singer of a London-based Big Band. During those years, I incurred my share of physical injuries and emotional upheavals, and realized it was almost impossible to find any type of healthcare practitioner who truly understood the specific challenges and pressures of the industry. Being told to ‘rest’ when you have 8 shows a week is not always the most practical solution! I realized that in order for a clinical practitioner to get to the root cause of an artist’s symptoms, rather than simply trying to eliminate them superficially, they needed a good understanding of the artist’s underlying technique, the challenges of the specific repertoire the artist is performing at the time, and the physical and emotional environment in which they are working. This drove my desire to fill this gap and led me to train as an Osteopath and to specialize in the field of Performing Arts Medicine – a realm where I found like-minded colleagues and organizations that perform research in this field. My continuing curiosity about the emotional make-up of creative people led to a Masters in Psychology and studying the neuroscience of creativity and the connection to physical and emotional health. My passion further drove me to become a speaker and educator in the field as well as becoming a co-creator of the syllabus for the world’s first formal qualification on this subject – a Master of Science degree in Performing Arts Medicine at University College, London. So my ‘business’ is really a summation of my journey to answer the many questions I had (and continue to have) about myself and those I observed around me, and to share all I have learned in service of supporting all the wonderful artists that are so vital to the health of the community at large. I help artists to cultivate the soil from which their creativity is borne to ensure that their artistic output carries a high nutritional content to those it reaches.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As an Osteopath with a Masters in Psychology, I work from a psycho-physiological perspective to find the root cause of physical and emotional challenges. I provide hands-on treatment for a wide range of musculoskeletal, neurological, digestive, and immune health issues, and combine my skills as a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine and Anxiety Treatment Professional to ascertain the physical and emotional root causes. As a Performing Arts Medicine specialist, I help instrumentalists, vocalists, and dancers with injury rehabilitation and technique optimization, as well as providing performance coaching from a neuro-scientific perspective. I also have a comprehensive online practice providing individual sessions, group workshops, and online courses in a variety of health and performance-related topics. I lecture internationally to both artists and healthcare practitioners on the health-related aspects of life in the arts, and have authored 3 books and many published articles on the subject. I have developed artist wellness curricula for several arts colleges, conservatories, and universities to ensure that the next generation of artists have the information they need to stay safe in this volatile industry. The unique aspect of my work is that I bring all the knowledge I have from being a lifelong performer and combine it with my medical and scientific training when providing treatment and coaching. If you are an instrumentalist, I will observe you with your instrument and provide technique optimization advice, if you are a singer or actor I will analyze your voice production, if you are a dancer I will assess your technique and strength/ flexibility balance. I also help artists to develop strategies to understand and manage the creative mind, and to remain grounded when the kite of creativity catches a thermal and becomes a runaway train! While the work can be quite technical, it is always in service of freeing artistic expression and helping artists to fully convey the emotional narrative of their work. As I mentioned before, my work grew very organically from the recognition that artists needed specialized healthcare from a practitioner with an understanding of their specific needs. The main challenge was in letting artists know that my practice and the Performing Arts Medicine (PAM) field existed – artists would typically have done the frustrating rounds of many non-specialist practitioners before finding my services or other organizations that could help them. While the field of Sports Medicine receives much recognition and funding, PAM is very much the ‘poor cousin’ so practitioners in this field typically have to bang on the doors of arts schools, orchestras, dance companies, theatre companies, record labels, etc. to let them know that they exist, and find themselves doing a huge amount of pro bono and discounted-rate treatment for a mostly uninsured population. I am passionate about my work in providing PAM training for other medical and healthcare providers, but the reality is that most will not land a dream job touring with a major production as arts budgets are already stretched very thin and many don’t see healthcare as a priority. Over my 20 years doing this work, I have found a way to strike a balance between having sufficient full fee-paying patients and lecturing work to subsidize the discounted and pro bono work, so that we all have what we need to survive! One of my key tenets is that survival is about physical and emotional flexibility and the ability to adapt, so I try to lead by example by keeping my practice flexible. What I want people (and artists specifically) to know is that there are practitioners out there who understand the specific challenges that they face. I am contacted almost daily by artists all over the world wanting to know if there is a specialist practitioner in their area and as I know most of the people who work in this field, then I am usually able to connect them with someone who can help. There is also so much that can be achieved with an online session, even for injury resolution. You don’t need to suffer in silence either physically or emotionally as there are specialists out there who truly ‘get it’ and are ready and willing to help whatever your circumstances. While I am happy to work with as many artists as I can, I also act as a conduit for further resources and appropriate referrals. Many artists are in a crunch right now, but I truly believe that art and creativity will shine the light to lead us to a brighter future. I am here to help artists to kindle the flame of creativity so that they have a self-replenishing fuel source to nourish themselves and all who receive their light.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As a Topanga resident, I love the amazing wild country that can be found just a stone’s throw from the hub of the city itself. Hiking in Topanga State Park affords 360 degree views of mountains, canyons, and coastline that belie the fact that you are technically still in the city of LA! Topanga itself still holds the vibe of the music and arts culture that made it the hangout of so many prominent artists from the 1960s onwards. The Inn of the Seventh Ray is an experience not to be missed for Topanga dining. Another favorite hiking spot if you are a film and TV buff is Malibu Creek State Park, formerly owned by 20th Century Fox. Aside from the breathtaking mountain-scapes, lakes, and rock pools, you may notice familiar landscapes that provided backdrops for everything from the 1930’s Tarzan films to Planet of the Apes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Logan’s Run. Fans of the TV series M*A*S*H can still visit the set today where the famous road-sign, the mess tent, and some of the old vehicles still remain. To quench your thirst after your hike, you should absolutely check out the nearby Cornell Winery where you’ll always get a warm welcome and the best wine list in the area. A true old Western village, Cornell also boasts the “Old Place’ for great food – a hang-out for many a movie star in their day. Another favorite of mine for wonderful organic farm-to-table food with million dollar ocean views is Malibu Farm, which you will find on the old fishing pier in Malibu. I like to keep it local so those are my insider tips!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my Shoutout to Dr John Chong (Musicians Clinics of Canada) for his belief, encouragement and mentorship that led to my becoming a Board Member for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and the Co-Chair for two of the PAMA International Symposia. From this sprung many opportunities and platforms to share my voice and to gain recognition in this field. When I felt that I had achieved all I could back in the UK, John and other colleagues encouraged me to move to the US where they felt that my ideas and innovations for developing the world of Performing Arts Medicine would find more fertile soil. They were right! Since moving to NYC in 2014, then to LA in 2015 the opportunities to share my clinical and educational work have just landed in my lap and continue to grow.
Wesley Kloss. Amy Ryerson