In New Orleans, A Health Clinic For Working Musicians : The Record In the weeks surrounding the city's annual Jazz Fest, the New Orleans Musicans' Clinic is flooded with artists who lack health care and can't afford to lose work over strep throat or a broken finger.

In New Orleans, A Health Clinic For Working Musicians

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New Orleans' annual music festival, Jazzfest, is in full swing until Sunday. The event draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, and also working musicians who play at the festival. And many of the performers don't have health insurance. So when they need a tune up they get care from the New Orleans Musician's Clinic.

Alex Schmidt reports.

ALEX SCHMIDT, BYLINE: The apex of a jazz solo is real, physical work.


SCHMIDT: Pianist Aaron Diehl is drenched in sweat, his body locked in a tight arc over the keyboard. Everyone in the Victor Goines Band is playing at full capacity. Yes, a working musician's body needs maintenance.

Many locals get it from the New Orleans Musician's Clinic, across town.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Well, tell her if she comes too late we can't see her.

SCHMIDT: It's one of few health centers in the country that provides care exclusively to artists. And today, some walk-ins are trying to get an appointment.

CATHERINE LASPERCHES: And Charles is here.

SCHMIDT: Catherine Lasperches is the clinic's nurse.

Really, the clinic is just two exam rooms and a couple of offices within Louisiana State University's medical school. Through grants and donations, and with the support of the larger hospital, the clinic helps 2,400 New Orleans musicians with everything from the flu to slipped discs and, of course, work-related injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, do not pop it. I

CHARLES MOORE: No, it's just bothersome...

SCHMIDT: Charles Moore has been playing the bass for 43 years. But he hasn't played the upright in a long time, until now.

: Now, I got a blood blister and I got a big, big blood blister on my finger and it hurts.


SCHMIDT: Moore is slated to perform this weekend at Jazzfest and he also has the flu.

Musicians coming in before a gig isn't uncommon - a drummer will have gout in a toe and need an injection, for example.

BETHANY BULTMAN: If their arthritis is becoming a barrier, not to their wellness, but a barrier to them doing what they love to do, they will come in.

SCHMIDT: Clinic director Bethany Bultman says the clinic uses that opportunity to address diabetes prevention or exercise. In other words, music is the opening that helps the clinic treat the whole patient.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is the flyer.


SCHMIDT: Dale Spalding sings, plays guitar, drums and the harmonica. He was trying to be proactive, with an appointment to talk about back pain before he heads out on the road.

SPALDING: You know, musicians play in pain all the time. You know, if you have a gig, you go to the gig. You do it. And most of the time just playing the music cures you temporarily.

SCHMIDT: Spalding says he likes to think of his health holistically. But sometimes, the show must go on.


SCHMIDT: And in New Orleans, it'll be going on all weekend.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt.


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