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San Diego Opera First-Ever Wellness Program

By Sara Schabas on February 5, 2024

San Diego Opera
San Diego Civic Theater, home of the San Diego Opera. (Photo: OperaSmorg/CC BY 3.0)

Driving the news: The massage therapist and former jazz musician Brian Festa has been appointed Wellness Director at the San Diego Opera (SDO). His appointment comes as the SDO launches the first-ever in-house wellness program at a US opera company. Festa will provide hypnotherapy and massage for employees at the San Diego Opera, including the staff and chorus.

What happened: Brian Festa approached the director of San Diego Opera, David Bennett, about launching a Wellness program. Bennett related that despite his interest in the program, the company lacked the budget, after which Festa sought out board members who helped to fund his project. Staff and chorus are now able to book weekly half hour massages with Festa, which he reports has greatly increased morale, productivity and stress management amongst employees.

Why it matters: Recent studies have cited that 40% of professional opera singers experience serious career disruptions due to anxiety or other mental health factors. Festa related that others working in the performing arts often “wear their burnout badge on their sleeve.” Wellness programs at arts organizations have been proven to decrease burnout, sick days, stress, and majorly increase productivity, social connection and employee retention, amongst other factors. Let’s hope it’s not only in California that these programs get put into place!

Sara Schabas
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