Interview with the Directors
Q. How did you two come to start the massage school?
Alexei: After a successful career as a massage therapist in Los Angeles, I went to grad school and became a physical therapist. The effort and expense involved in becoming a physical therapist is enormous; it's basically medical school, except instead of concentrating on internal organs and pharmacology, the emphasis is on the musculoskeletal systems. After all that education I was chagrinned to realize that I could probably do more good in the wellness arena as a massage therapist. This is not the same thing as working in the rehabilitation arena. As wellness was my primary concern, I continued to utilize manual techniques, and to work on a patient population that could benefit from massage-type techniques.
I met Valerie when she came to see me for some help with chronic low back pain. Her pain was a result of her misspent youth as a ballerina. Using some trigger point techniques on her quadratus lumborum muscles gave her lasting relief. She was extremely happy, as she had been unable to find any relief previously with other bodyworkers. Over the course of her treatment she told me of her thwarted efforts to become a massage therapist, and I told her how it had always been a dream of mine to open a massage school.
Q. So, it was just that simple?
Valerie: It was anything but simple! Becoming licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Education was an extremely arduous process. Also an expensive one, especially since the tightening up of the insurance industry. We had to secure a large bond, and plenty of liability insurance in order to obtain a license from the state. As a matter of fact it took almost 2 years to obtain our license.
Q. So you are licensed by whom?
Alexei: By the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Q. And Valerie, what about you, what about this "thwarted effort" to become a massage therapist?
Valerie: Several years ago when I lived in the Midwest, I wanted to go to massage school. The only options were big corporate schools, where the tuition was almost twenty thousand dollars, and the programs were two years long, full-time with a long commute. I was a single mother at the time, I still am, and even if I had twenty thousand dollars sitting in the bank, I couldn't see spending that much time on top of my regular work away from my young children. They wouldn't be who they are today if I had. I couldn't understand how it could possibly take that long to learn how to be a massage therapist-- until I looked at the syllabus. There were huge chunks of time required for unrelated courses that I wasn't interested in taking: hundreds of hours of Traditional Chinese Medicine, business, chi gong, and on and on. I wasn't interested in all those extra courses; I just wanted to learn how to give a great massage and get out into the work place to start supporting my children. Also there were additional hidden costs tacked on that added up to thousands more...we were required to buy a table from them for twice what I now know an excellent table costs. I looked into federal financial aid, and discovered that it would have meant being saddled for years with loan payments that seemed like a small mortgage. I was disappointed and disillusioned, and for me the dream died there.
Q. And how did you meet up with Alexei?
Valerie: Well as he mentioned, I was a dancer, though I wouldn't characterize my youth as having been misspent. (Laughter). From too many years of hyper-extension and improper turnout, I had a chronic lower back issue that wasn't getting any better with chiropractic treatments. Alexei treated me with a deep tissue massage unlike any other I had ever had. When he finished, I commented that I had always wanted to know how to do that for people, and he answered that he had always wanted to open a school. I told him about my past business experience and suggested that we could open a school together, and the rest is history. And because of the discouraging experience I had had earlier, I wanted to design our program so that it would be doable for just about everybody, even single moms with little support and other jobs and obligations. So we made our program as inexpensive as we possibly could, as quick and efficient as possible, with an emphasis that had more to do with hands-on learning and less with reading textbooks.
Q: Well that makes sense.
Valerie: Yes, it is a motor skill after all. You wouldn't teach someone how to play tennis by giving them a book to read. It takes practice, practice and more practice.
Alexei: And lots of guidance and honest feedback to improve technique.
Q. What kind of massage do you teach?
Alexei: Our core curriculum is a west-coast-style massage routine that emphasizes deep, strong, and penetrating techniques delivered in a manner that is flowing and safe for both practitioner and client. Many New England massage therapists would characterize our massage routine as deep tissue, but in California, where I was trained, this type of work is considered "normal" massage. These techniques have proven themselves on the west coast, and enabled our graduates to attain a startlingly high level of success in our region. We utilize instructors who are expert practitioners in their various fields. Also, Shiatsu, Reflexology, and Thai Massage are some of the advanced modalities we teach. These guest lecturers teach from the standpoint of practicing professionals with many years of experience. Our graduates come away with many tools in their toolbox to choose from!
Q. Do you offer financial aid?
Valerie: Rather than saddling our students with years of loans to pay back, we offer large scholarships to all students admitted. The small amount that students must pay is then broken down into a monthly payment plan. So the result is that our students' costs are among the lowest in the country.
Q. Sounds like a great program. Why would anyone go anywhere else?
Alexei: The smart students come to us.