CORRECTED - We're Jammin'? Workers tune out stress with music

Thu Apr 2, 2009 12:41pm EDT
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(Corrects name spelling in 12th, 15th paragraphs to Lamond)

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For optometrist Howard Levy, nothing eases the tension of daily eye exams and mounting paperwork like strapping on a guitar and jamming with fellow eye-care professionals in a rock band dubbed OffAxis.

Levy, 56, who lives and works in the Southern California town of Carlsbad, near San Diego, said the recession has only escalated the headaches of his job -- last-minute patient cancellations, bounced checks and insurance aggravation.

"But the music is totally a stress buster," he said. "It's the passion of our souls to play music, create music, bond with all these people and take our mind off our daily routines."

He is among a growing number of individuals in the U.S. work force, many stressed out by tough economic times, who are indulging their inner musician by dusting off old guitars, drums and other instruments to pursue after-hours lessons and garage-band gigs.

Steven Cox, CEO of, a music-instruction business based in San Diego with a network of private music teachers in 400 cities nationwide, said 2008 was a banner year in revenue, numbers of students and lessons booked.

Business continued to climb in January and February, marking the five-year-old company's two best months to date, all despite a slumping economy.

Or, perhaps, because of it.   Continued...

<p>Optometrist Howard Levy poses with his guitar case outside a club in this undated handout photograph. REUTERS/Courtesy Howard Levy/Handout</p>